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Moving states impacts divorce process



Q: My wife and I are getting divorced in Maryland but agreed we would relocate the family to Massachusetts. Because we already filed in Maryland we are going to have the case continue in Maryland and just return for necessary hearings. However, we understand that once we are in Massachusetts for six months Massachusetts has jurisdiction over our children so we are not really sure what to do about this. Should we keep working with our mediator in Maryland or abandon that process and find someone to work with to try to resolve parenting issues in Massachusetts? If we get stuck now that Maryland no longer has jurisdiction what do we do?

Also, in Maryland my wife would not qualify for alimony.  If the judge there decides she gets no alimony, can she reapply in Massachusetts?

A: The alimony piece is easy. If she asks in one jurisdiction and the judge turns her down, she does not get a second bite at the apple on moving to Massachusetts. Likewise, if she does not qualify for alimony in Maryland, she cannot come here and try to qualify so long as your divorce judgment says no alimony.

The child piece is a little more complicated. I assume your divorce petition includes a claim for determining custody and parenting time with your children. If so, a move to Massachusetts does not automatically transfer jurisdiction because there is already an action pending. If you resolve everything except for the child-related issues in Maryland, you can get your divorce and agree to transfer the issues relating to custody and parenting time to Massachusetts for determination as that is where everyone is now living. If you decide to do this, after your children have been in Massachusetts for six months, you can file a complaint for custody. If you have temporary orders from Maryland you can ask the court here to adopt them so the status quo is maintained until there is a final decision.

If you are making progress with the mediator you are using in Maryland regarding parenting issues, there is no reason to abandon that process. Zoom technology allows for remote mediation, which has become quite common and effective. However, if you are not making progress with your mediator in Maryland, you can use the move as a good excuse to start over fresh. Or you can bypass mediation altogether here and go to court to ask the judge for temporary orders. With the exception of one county in the western part of the state, there is no obligation to mediate parenting issues before bringing the matter before the court.


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