It can be very difficult, even for children of divorce, when one parent relocates. Children of different ages will react differently, but it is tough on them at any age. There are steps you can take to make the move less traumatic for your children, for you, and for the parent that is moving away. It can definitely be hard to consider your former spouse’s feelings in this situation, but if you do, it can make things much better for your children.
The Legal Details
If your former spouse is relocating and they are the custodial parent, you may be able to keep them from taking your children out of the area. While your first response may be, “of course I want to stop them,” be sure to consider what is really best for your children. As painful as it is for you, relocating with your spouse may be what is best for them.
Consider working with your co-parent to agree on new visitation, custody or child support agreements. Be willing to make compromises that are intended to keep children’s lives as consistent as possible. If you need help making these plans, consider working through a mediator or attorney.
In situations like these, the courts may be willing to grant a change to existing custody, visitation and child support agreements. The best outcomes will be achieved when both parents are in agreement before going in front of a judge. If you cannot find common ground, you will be putting your child’s living situation into the hands of the state.
Whatever the circumstances, when one parent moves away from their children you can take steps to make the transition less traumatic.
Communicate Often and Honestly
As the custodial parent, be sure to keep your co-parent up to date on your child’s life. Help prepare them with information about your child’s latest activities, accomplishments and life changes. Empowering the long-distance parent with information so that they can demonstrate awareness of and interest in a child’s life can go a long way in maintaining that parent-child bond.
If you are the long-distance parent, take responsibility for maintaining contact with your children. Whether they are five or 15, it is your responsibility to initiate and maintain contact. It can be difficult, especially with teenagers who don’t seem particularly responsive. No matter how complicated the relationship is, the responsibility for staying in touch is always yours, not your child’s.
Be a Flexible Co-Parent
Sticking to a schedule and a regular routine is important for children’s sense of safety and security. However, a schedule shouldn’t be used a convenient excuse for keeping your children from their other parent. Children are very perceptive and may very well pick up on any self-centered motivation. You wouldn’t want that, would you? Plus, a surprise visit from a parent that is being missed could be a wonderful gift that you can give your children.
If your co-parent is in town and wants to spend some extra time with your children, don’t automatically say no. If schedules can be adjusted without too much disruption, or if your children are involved in activities that both parents can attend, then make an effort to be accommodating.
On the other hand, if you are the visiting parent, you must be understanding of scheduling issues that may make it impossible for you to see your children on a quick trip through town. Expecting everything else to be dropped because you are going to be in town for a few hours is not fair or reasonable.
Helping your children through the relocation of a parent really comes down to putting them first. Ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you were them. More importantly, ask yourself how they would want their parents to treat each other.
If you are working through any of these issues or other custody, visitation, or child support problems related to your recent divorce, give us a call. We’re here to help.