I recently wrote Post-Divorce Parenting: Visitation vs Time-Sharing. In that post, I shared how in my state – Florida – the family law rules have changed recently and one of the significant changes is that the term visitation is no longer used; instead, it’s now time-sharing. The implications of this are huge, in my view. The Florida courts now promote the idea that kids have two homes in which they live – no longer living primarily with one parent and visiting the other every other weekend. The big winners in this ruling are the kids, as far as I’m concerned.
As I thought about this ruling, what came to mind was the fact that after divorce, when individuals are free to go on and live the rest of their lives, many parents make major decisions with the kids in mind. While others make those decisions with what’s best for them or their careers in mind. Yet others start new families and think more about that new family and less about the kids from their former relationship. So I thought that today I’d write about the relocating after a divorce when kids are involved.
Most couples, as they enter relationships, are on cloud nine, as the expression goes. They imagine a fairy-tale life of happiness. Then comes reality; when the honeymoon is over and life becomes life, it’s a big wake-up call for many. Still, they settle down and have kids and try to make the best of life, despite the fact that they’ve realized that the person who they married is not quite as perfect as the person that they dated.
Many couples make it through this phase and go on to live happily ever after. Sometimes they make it but only after going to counseling where they get professional help to straighten things out. But many couples do not make it – and that’s just the reality of the situation. Despite their best efforts, many of these relationships end in divorce.
I always say that when marriages and other relationships end, when there are no kids involved, no matter how bitter or nasty the process may get, when it’s over, it’s over and then the healing begins. There’s nothing further from the marriage to deal with. When there are kids, however, there is a lifetime connection that never goes away. As long as the parents and the children are alive, they all have to deal with each other, to some degree.
Some couples, during their divorce proceedings, work together to ensure that, despite the ending of the relationship, they both remain actively involved in the day to day lives of the children. So they agree to live in the same vicinity – whether in a formally written agreement or just by a verbal understanding. Others have no such understanding or agreement but still they end up living in the same area because they choose to.
Then there are those who believe that, when the marriage has ended and they get on with their lives, they are free to pursue their goals and dreams without consideration to their former spouse. I’d like to address these individuals with this post. Please note that when I write about subject matters that may be a bit sensitive, as this one is, I’m not really saying what individuals should or shouldn’t do. My primary objective is to get others to see the potential impact on the children when these decisions are made.
So the question at hand is: Do you relocate after a divorce when kids are involved? My thought is that, it’s not a yes or no question. There are so many factors to consider.
The first issue to consider is why one would want to relocate. Some people have such a bitter divorce that they want to get as far away from their former spouse as possible. Others just want to start over fresh and new in an area where no one knows them or their family. That way, they don’t routinely run into their former spouse or other people who know them. Those meetings can potentially reopen wounds that are supposed to be healing.
Then others want to move back to the community where they grew up because they know of the unconditional love and support that they are shown there. Each of these reasons is certainly understandable. I know, having gone through a divorce, just how meaningful it is to be surrounded with love when you’re going through such a difficult period.
Still, when there are kids involved, each of these choices needs to be looked into a bit further. I believe that kids need the love and support of both parents. Note that I didn’t just say that kids need both parents. This is because some parents are just not the loving and supportive type; their kids might be better off without them. But when parents lovingly support their kids, I believe that they ought to be involved in their lives.
One of the significant factors to consider when thinking about relocation is the age of the kids. For instance, if the kids are 2 or 3 years old, one’s thought process might be different than if the kids are 15 or 16. A young child who’s just growing and developing a bond with the parents might lose that bond if one parent moves away.
I have a college friend who divorced. Not long after the divorce, his former wife wanted to relocate to a different city within the same state. They had a 2 year old child. He fought successfully to prevent her from moving because his point was that the bond with his young child may be broken. A year or so after the divorce, he got the opportunity of a lifetime – a high paying executive position in his home country, halfway around the world. I don’t know how long he deliberated but he ended up taking that position. So now, instead of seeing his child multiple times each week, he sees her once or twice a year.
The other extreme is when divorced parents make the decision to live close together so that the divorce won’t be too disruptive for the kids. I have a friend who went through a divorce a few years ago. He and his former wife have 2 teenagers. One of the children has autism and requires special care. Both parents agreed to live in the same community so that together they could provide their child the special care that’s needed.
A very significant factor in making such a decision is whether the kids would be relocating with us or not. It’s one thing to move with the kids and have them with us all the time; but it’s a totally different consideration when we move without the kids, knowing that we’ll see them less frequently. And when we move with the kids, we also need to consider how that might affect the kids’ relationship with the other parent, knowing that they’ll see him/her less frequently.
So you see, it’s really not a yes or no answer when we think about whether or not to relocate. Life is really all about choices. And the choices that we make affect not only ourselves but others. I don’t think that we can simply say people should not relocate after a divorce when there are kids involved. There’s just too much to consider. In my view, however, kids should be considered above our own personal wishes and desires.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been affected in any way by the relocation issue after a divorce. I know that for some of you, reading this post has touched you deep within as you consider your own life and the decisions that you’ve made or that others have made.
I always try to get parents to think of the kids first. In the ideal world, we get married and live happily ever after. But that utopia doesn’t exist for everyone. I just encourage you to think of the kids in the decisions you make. You can relocate and be as close as ever to your kids. Or the same move could cause you to lose the essential connection with them.
If your kids are in a different city today, for any reason, give them a special phone call to let them know you love them.