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  • Writer's pictureSummers Family Law

Relocation Dilemma: How Courts Weigh Kids' Interests in Removal Cases

As a divorce attorney, I see many heart-wrenching cases involving parents who want to move out of state with their children. Recently, I reviewed an Appeals Court decision that provides important guidance on how judges evaluate these so-called "removal" cases.

The case involved Julie and Matthew, who have two young children together but were never married. After they separated, Julie wanted to relocate with the children from Massachusetts to Florida where she has family. Matthew opposed the move.

Under Massachusetts law, if one parent is the primary custodial parent, courts apply a two-part test to decide removal requests. First, is there a “real advantage” to the move for the custodial parent? Here, the trial court judge found there was, given Julie's family support and a larger home in Florida.

But then the analysis turns to what is paramount — the children's best interests. The law requires weighing factors like: potential improvements to the children's lives from the move, harm to the children's bond with the noncustodial parent, and how relocating will affect the children's emotional, physical and developmental needs.

In this case, the judge determined that despite benefits from the move, it was not in the children's best interests given how it would disrupt their lives in Massachusetts and undermine their close relationship with their father.

This decision highlights how removal cases turn on a delicate balancing act focused on the children's welfare. Even where there are clear benefits to the custodial parent from moving, judges take seriously how uprooting children can cause real harm. It's a reminder that in advising clients on potential moves, the child-focused factors must be addressed. Though difficult news for parents who wish to start a new life elsewhere, ensuring stability for children is the court's guiding principle.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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