Divorce is never easy for anyone. But it can be particularly difficult for children. In the long term, divorce can actually benefit children more than parents staying in an unhappy marriage would. Although many couples remain together in order to prevent their children from experiencing the apparent trauma associated with divorce, in reality, the toxicity of living with unhappy parents can affect children even more negatively. They may not fully recognize the benefits of their parents’ divorce while they are young, but they can grow up and eventually understand that their parents made the best decisions for their family. But this doesn’t stop parents from experiencing some difficulties as they adjust to the realities of raising children while divorced.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of raising children post-divorce is moving with them. Parents may do their best to avoid moving and to stay in close proximity to each other after a divorce. Of course, some parents also purposefully chose to move following a divorce in order to have space from their ex-spouse. Without children, this would be fairly straightforward. But divorced parents must stay within contact with each other as long as their children are minors, even if they are not required to live in close proximity.
Parents may need to move to new areas for new job opportunities, however. They may also move to be with new partners or to live in areas with better school districts. No matter what your reasons may be for moving as a parent following your divorce, there is much that you need to consider. Let’s explore what you should know before you attempt to move as a divorced parent.
1. Know Your Laws
Divorced parents are not able to simply move when they wish without thinking about their ex-spouses; there are laws in place to protect both parents, though they vary depending on the state in which you live. It is one thing if you are moving a mere hour away from your ex. It is another issue entirely if you are moving far from them. Both custodial and non-custodial parents need to be aware of the laws in their states. While custodial parents cannot simply take their children with them wherever they please, non-custodial parents cannot assume that their visitation rights will remain intact if they move far away and expect the custodial parent to bring the children to see them.
Some states address this by requiring that custodial parents moving must inform the non-custodial parent about their move in writing. This gives the non-custodial parent the right to object to the move and bring the matter to court. Other states are more relaxed regarding moving, and you may not need to do much at all prior to moving. If you are the custodial parent, however, you should think about how your move will affect your children’s relationship with their non-custodial parent. Typically, children will spend 277 days out of the year with their custodial parent. If your move will result in your child spending even less time with their non-custodial parent, you should evaluate your decisions carefully.
You should also look over your custody agreement again. Many lawyers ensure that there are provisions regarding moves in the custody agreements that they draw up for their clients. Your move may well be in violation of your current custody agreement. This means that, even if both parents consent to the move, you should have your custody agreement revised to reflect the new terms. The last thing you want is to be held in contempt of court because you did not follow the rules regarding your custody agreement.
2. Change Your Co-Parenting Strategies
If you and your ex are both involved in parenting the children and will now be living far apart from each other, you need to develop new co-parenting strategies. Even if you’ve been successfully co-parenting with your ex for years, your move may very well change the way that the two of you approach co-parenting. Changes to visitation should be addressed early; if you’re the parent that is moving, you may need to compensate your co-parent for part of their travel expenses.
Additionally, you want your child to be aware that their non-custodial parent is still a present parent that needs to be respected, even if they live far away. Therefore, you and your ex should become comfortable with addressing new rules and talking to your kids together through technology like Zoom or Facetime. Additionally, regularly scheduled chats aside from the calls and texts your child may share casually with their parent throughout the day will ideally help them all feel more connected.
3. Focus On Making The Kids Comfortable
Your kids may feel uncomfortable or even scared when they move, especially if they’re leaving their non-custodial parent behind. You need to focus on making them feel at home as quickly as possible. Transport old routines, like walking the dog, to your new neighborhood. Furnish your new home as quickly as possible, paying special attention to your children’s bedrooms.
This can all be challenging, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, as 25% of Florida buyers were in 2019. But try not to get preoccupied with your new house before your children settle in. Get them involved in extracurricular activities that will have them making new friends as quickly as possible. This can help combat the emotional turmoil that can come with moving.
4. Be Patient
Your children may blame you for your move. Even if your move is legally allowed, your ex may also be angry at first. But if you truly believe that your move was the right decision for the whole family, all you can do is be patient and wait out the anger. Listen and understand without wavering.
Most of the time, families are able to adjust to these types of moves and continue on. But you need to be understanding of the fact that there will likely be some aches and pains, even emotionally, that come with moving after a divorce. So be ready for challenges, but push ahead with confidence and knowledge.