Q Because of some marital problems, my wife got me to agree to move with our three children to North Carolina. We each found and accepted new jobs. Six weeks ago I went to North Carolina to buy our new house. Last week she served me with her Massachusetts divorce complaint seeking a divorce, custody, child support, and asset division. Yesterday, she emailed announcing her move to Vermont and school enrollment of our children.
Can she do that?
A She lived here with you and had a right to file and to leave the next day. You could file a motion to dismiss her divorce case claiming she has unclean hands. But, your motion should be denied – even though denial may be distasteful to the judge – because she complied with the applicable rules.
She probably knew that if she had moved the kids to Vermont while you still lived in Massachusetts, it, not Vermont, would have jurisdiction over the children. So she hornswoggled you to avoid that roadblock.
Did you really want to live in North Carolina? If not, then immediately instruct your Massachusetts lawyer to file a verified (signed by you under oath) emergency motion for temporary physical custody of the children stating: 1) you will promptly rent and move into a house in the same Massachusetts city or town where you used to live with the children; 2) you are putting the children’s best interests first by asking that they be in your custody while going to their familiar schools remaining with their friends; 3) you never intended to become domiciled in North Carolina and only went there to please your wife; and 4) are putting the children’s best interests before your own interests.
Also hire a Vermont private investigator to try to find out if your wife moved there to live with or nearby her new significant other. If so, that supports your claim she moved to Vermont for her own – not the kids’ – best interests.
If the judge orders the children back to Massachusetts – even if not immediately in your primary physical custody – you’ll also have a better chance of ending up with primary custody of the children. In making that order, the judge would give great weight to your wife’s putting her own interests first and failing to consider the children’s best interests as proven by her separating them from you and from their school-friends at a formative time in their lives.
If you don’t get primary custody of the children, at least the time to get to spend with them for your parenting time will be easier to exercise if you live in Massachusetts instead of North Carolina.