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Can I stop the other parent from taking my child out of state?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & MetroWest Legal Services
Reviewed June 2023

If you have any legal or physical custody with your child’s other parent

And the other parent:

Files a complaint to remove your child from the state:
File a “Response in Opposition to the Custodial parent’s Petition or Complaint to Remove the minor child from the Commonwealth.”

Has not filed anything in court, but you think they may take your child out of state:
File a “Complaint to Restrain the Removal of the Minor Child.” In your Opposition or Complaint, tell the judge why your child should stay in Massachusetts. Include things like:

  • It is in the best interests of your child to have frequent and close contact with both parents.

  • If your child leaves the state, you will have less parenting time with your child.

  • The other parent has not asked for your permission to move your child out of state.

  • You have not given the other parent permission to move your child out of state.

  • The court has not given the other parent permission to move your child out of state.

  • It is not in your child’s best interest to change their:

    • School
    • Doctors
    • Sports team, extracurriculars or after school groups
    • Religious community
  • Your child:

    • Has not said they want to move or agreed to move.
    • Is doing well academically.
    • Has many friends and relatives in Massachusetts. The move would severely restrict contact with those friends and relatives.
  • And you:

    • Have a court order that gives you joint legal or physical custody.
    • Have exercised your parenting time rights and cooperated with the other parent to make important decisions about your child.
    • Have a close relationship with your child.
    • Take part in the child’s extracurricular activities and general caretaking.
    • Would be unable to co-parent as joint legal and/or physical custodian if your child moved out of state.

If you have sole physical and legal custody

The judge will probably not let your child’s other parent move your child out of state. Talk to a lawyer.

There are federal and state laws that protect your child from kidnapping and child abduction, even if it is a relative. If you think your child's other parent may try to take your child out of the country see the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program from the Department of Justice.

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