As Seattle divorce attorneys, it is not unusual for us to see one parent relocate to another part of the country, and sometimes to another country, after going through a divorce in Washington State. When this happens, it amounts to a huge adjustment for everyone in the family.
Moving away (with or without your children) without the knowledge or consent of your ex-spouse can have profound legal consequences for you, some of them quite serious. Always contact an attorney before making such a decision. Here are some of the issues to take into consideration.
Moving is always a big change for an intact family, and though children do not like to move, they often adapt quickly to the new location and make new friends. When parents live apart and then one parent decides to move a significant distance away, that creates an entirely different set of stressors for post-divorce parenting and for the children. School, activities, relationships, community and parental contact are all disrupted. As you can imagine, this is not a popular move with the parent who is not making the move, whereas the parent who is moving often believes they have very good reasons for doing so, usually financial.
Children have varying responses – some don’t mind, others are vehemently opposed. It is the kind of change that makes kids vulnerable to acting out or manipulating parents, so additional attention to your children is critical during this kind of change. Keeping conflict at a minimum if one parent decides to relocate is the key to keeping children feeling calm and secure.
Reasons for Moving
Post-divorce parents move for a variety of reasons, often related to job transfers or promotions, to go back to school or get additional training for the job market, to marry a new spouse, and/or to be nearer to extended family whom can help the single parent post-divorce. However, the moving parent really needs to ask him or herself the following question: Is this good for my children? Or am I doing this for myself? It’s always best to put yourself in your children’s shoes first. What you want as an independent adult comes second to your children’s needs if you are a responsible parent.
Relocating with children is a life-altering decision for your children and should be made with appropriate consideration for the consequences of your decision. Keeping the focus on your children will drive better decision-making.
Your Parenting Plan Should Take Relocation Into Consideration
If relocation is a strong possibility, make sure that your parenting plan reflects that possibility. You may need to change your parenting plan when an ex-spouse relocates. Issues that will need to be addressed include:
- How much time will each parent spend with each child?
- How will the children travel between homes?
- What mode of transportation will they take?
- Who will pay for their transportation costs?
- Who will be responsible for, and make, travel the travel arrangements?
- How will each parent communicate with the children? For how long and how often?
The answer to these questions will depend on what is best for your children depending on their ages at the time of the relocation. It is best to revisit these decisions as your children grow and develop. One parent moves away does not mean that children lose their right to a healthy and substantial relationship with each parent. Working together, parents can find good ways to make sure their children’s rights to have those relationships stay intact and secure.