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What if I do not get permission to move with my child and just take them with me?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts
Reviewed June 2023

If you are leaving Massachusetts because of domestic abuse talk to a domestic violence advocate. See, Emergencies.

If you do not get permission to move out of Massachusetts with your child, the other parent can

  • File a complaint for custody.
  • File a complaint for contempt against you.
  • File parental kidnapping charges against you.
  • Get a court order that says you must return your child to Massachusetts.
  • Get a court order that says your child must stay in Massachusetts until the court makes a final decision.
  • Get custody of your child. It could be "temporary," but temporary can be a long time.
  • Get a sheriff or constable to come and get your child from wherever you are.

The other parent must file the complaint within 6 months from the day you move if they want to fight your move in a Massachusetts court.

Massachusetts courts keep the right or “ jurisdiction” over custody of your child for 6 months after you move.

Usually you cannot get a permanent custody order from another state until your child has lived in the new state for 6 months.

But you may be able to get a permanent custody order in the new state before the 6 months is up.  The court in your new state may be willing to hear the custody case if all of your child's significant relationships are in the new state. This is a difficult argument to make. A  Massachusetts judge will talk to the judge in your new state. Then the judges will decide together which court should hear the case.

Important

Your new state may use a different law. Your new state may say you have to go back to Massachusetts for court if a Massachusetts court already made decisions about custody or visitation.

Try to talk to a lawyer:

  • Before you leave the state with your child, no matter what your situation.
  • Even if you are only planning on moving to a different part of Massachusetts.

Emergencies

You may need to move quickly because of an abusive partner.

If you need to take your child with you so you can be safe, you may be able to get temporary custody quickly with a 209A Restraining Order in Massachusetts or an Abuse Prevention Order in the new state. Contact a domestic violence services agency for help.

Important

An order from another state would let the person who abused you know the state, county or city you are in.  If you are worried about your safety see Protecting your information in Probate and Family Court.

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