Category Archives: Interstate-Travel

Jurisdiction

In legal matters involving children, physical location of where child lives is very important when deciding jurisdiction. If one parent moves a child out of state, then the jurisdiction could change immediately, or after a statutory period of time depending on which state.  In Massachusetts, the duration is six (6) months or more—at which point Massachusetts no longer has jurisdiction over the parties.

Therefore, any modifications (changes that need to be made to an agreement) must be done in the child’s new home state. However, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can still enforce any court orders and a contempt filed in Massachusetts (assuming the other party remains in MA) can be addressed and heard by the court. If the custodial parent is served in hand with the contempt summons and he or she fails to show for the contempt hearing, then a capias (warrant for their arrest) will be issued. If both parties are present for the hearing, then the court will address the contempt and ultimately make a ruling. However, the contempt being filed by the non-custodial parent must pertain to the parenting time.  A contempt for non-payment of child support can also be filed in Massachusetts.

If the other state modifies the Massachusetts court order, then Massachusetts would only be able to address issues pertaining to support for the child.

The Massachusetts court have no jurisdiction to modify or change the orders after the child is gone more than six months. A modification would need to occur in the child’s home state, where they are currently residing.

Removal of children out of state

This is American and I can choose to live wherever I want to. I do not need the court to tell me where I can go and where I cannot. Refusal t allow me to move is violation of my Fifth and Fourteen amendments to the US Constitution. If I want to leave Massachusetts then I can, right?

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If you have children and the other parent wants to continue to live in Massachusetts and does not want you to take the children to another state permanently then the answer is not a simple one.

We are only minutes from the Connecticut border now so an extra five
minutes drive will not make any difference.

I have heard this statement so many times in my practice and the truth is that it does matter and it does matter a lot.

In most separation agreements (terms of the divorce), there is language that precludes one parent from permanently leaving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without a court order or obtaining other parents’ permission. Even without that language in the separation agreements, Massachusetts General Laws, c. 208, § 30, states that children “shall not . . . be removed out of this commonwealth without such consent . . . without the consent of both parents, unless the court upon cause shown otherwise orders.”

In other words, both parents must agree or the court must approve the parent to take the children out of the Commonwealth. The reasoning behind this, in part, was to prevent a parent from alienating the other parent or prohibiting the child-parent relationship/bond.

If the other parent does consent then it is best to get it in writing, and whenever possible, to make it a court ordered modification.

There are different standards required by the parent in order to prove that they should be permitted to move out of the Commonwealth with their children. The most well known is based on the “Real Advantage” test as established in Yannas v. Frondistou-Yannas, 395 Mass. 704, 1985. While Yannas is an old case it is still good law and is applied in full, or in part, in removal cases. The real advantage test is a two-prong test and both prongs must be met in order for the court to allow removal.

“If the custodial parent establishes a good, sincere reason for wanting to remove to another jurisdiction, none of the relevant factors becomes controlling in deciding the best interests of the child, but rather they must be considered collectively. Every person, parent and child, has an interest to be considered. The judicial safeguard of those interests lies in careful and clear fact-finding and not in imposing heightened burdens of proof or in inequitably identifying constitutional rights in favor of one person against another.” Yannas 712-713.
When considering moving out of the Commonwealth with your children it is best to consult wt. an attorney months in advance to better understand the law and what a move would legally entail.

The Yannas case pertains when one parent is the custodian. In situation where the parents share custody, then Mason v. Coleman is more applicable. 447 Mass. 177 (2006). “Shared physical custody contemplates that ‘a child shall have periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent . . . assur[ing] . . . frequent and continued contact with both parents’.” G. L. c. 208, s. 31. The court must determine what is the child bets interst given all relevant factors.