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If there is no court order, can I move with my child?

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed August 2015

Can I move out with my child as long as there is no custody order from a court?

Sometimes women need to leave, and take their children with them, so they can be safe. You know best if you need to get away to stay safe.

If you have never been married to the father and there is no court order about custody, then you can move out and take your child with you.  It is legal to do that.  You do not need court permission to move out with your child.

But the father can file a paternity case at any time, and then try to get custody and parenting time or visitation. If the father has been involved with your child and then you take your child away so he cannot see the child, the judge may sympathize with the father. This is a time when the father of your child might take you to court.

What if I leave the state with my child?

If your child has lived in Massachusetts for the last 6 months, then a Massachusetts court can make decisions about your child even if you leave the state. This means that the father can still file a paternity case in Massachusetts after you move. If he files a paternity case, then a Massachusetts court may make the decision about custody.  If you have moved away, it can be expensive, inconvenient, and maybe even unsafe for you to take part in such an important case.  He can ask the court to order you to bring the child back to Massachusetts. If the court orders you to bring your child back to Massachusetts , a sheriff may show up on your doorstep in your new state to take your child back to Massachusetts.

If you need to leave the state with your child so that you can be safe, you may need to take the risk. But you should talk to a lawyer first, if you can.  These kinds of cases are very complicated.  That is why it is so important to get legal advice.  Your lawyer might advise you:

  1. to tell the father that you are leaving; 
  2. it can be hard to take part in a case when you have moved far away;   
  3. you need to get a court order that lets you leave the state.

Call your local legal services organization to see if you can get free legal help. If you cannot find free legal help, try to find a private lawyer who can advise you at a price you can afford.

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