Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Moving and Relocating (page 2)
It's widely thought that the three most stressful events that can happen in the life of a child are the death of a parent or close family member, divorce, and moving. If this is so, it would appear as though a move during or following a divorce would be adding insult to injury. Financial circumstances often determine the necessity of a move. Ability to survive and overall quality of life are certainly factors parents need to take into consideration.
There are, however, negative consequences for a child who is uprooted from family and friends needlessly because the custodial parent wants one of the following changes:
- To move closer to her new partner
- "A fresh start" far away from the noncustodial parent, despite the fact that the children enjoy spending time with that parent
- To separate the children from a parent out of malice or spite
Please remember that whenever you move a child outside of his school district you are forcing the child to adjust to new friends, new teachers, and new environments. These are sometimes the only measures of stability left in a child's life after parents divorce.
You might hear some say that children are resilient and adjust easily. This is true of only some children. Many children do not adjust easily and are frightened, saddened, or otherwise put off by change.
How the Move Will Affect Your Child's Relationship with Your Co-Parent
You must carefully consider changes in the children's pattern of contact with a noncustodial parent the children see regularly. Some parents who are separated by distance will try to replace the time the children are losing by adding more holiday and summer visitation. The math might work out the same, but the impact can still be very negative, especially if the noncustodial parent participated in school and extracurricular activities, was a coach for a sports team, or even had a regular weekend date with the child.
Sometimes divorced parents forget that the decisions they make create the psychological videotape that becomes their children's childhood memories. Is it better to have a few concentrated periods of contact with the noncustodial parent, or better to have weekend ice cream sundaes and all of the "little experiences" that form the basis of emotional memories that are more intimate and, in the long run, probably healthier psychologically? Usually it is the latter.
Many parents who move leave with the feeling that the children do not have much to gain by seeing the noncustodial parent on a regular basis. I believe this would be a very difficult thing to know with confidence. You would have to know what happens during every moment of your children's contact with the other parent; and to know this you would have to know what "really" happens as opposed to what your children say happens when they are there.
When You Are the Noncustodial Parent
If you are the noncustodial parent, and your children are moving away over your objections, it's important to avoid making your children feel bad about a decision they probably have very little to do with. This includes making them feel guilty and telling them that you will cry when you think about how far away they are. Instead, tell them that you will love them no matter where they live, and that, although you will miss them, you will do your best to call them, communicate with them, and see them. If you believe it is in their best interests, fight hard to have them stay nearby, but do not involve them directly in your struggles.
Know Whether a Move Is Legal
In the United States, no parent has the right to leave the jurisdiction of the court their case is in unless the other parent consents to the move or if there is a court order permitting it. I have worked on many cases where a poorly informed parent has packed up and moved to another state, only to be served with legal papers telling them they must return to their home state. This includes cases where the parent who has moved has, for all intents and purposes, been the only "real" parent in the child's life. One law that addresses the issue of moving is a federal law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA).
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