What can I do when divorce means parental relocation?

Sometimes, it is inevitable that divorced New York parents have to relocate, often out of state or across the country. When the parents share custody of or have visitation rights with their minor children, it can make the situation fraught with complexity.

New York courts consider the child's best interests when determining whether to allow the custodial parent to move out of state with the minor children. While each case is weighed individually on its merits, the best possible outcome for the children is always the determining factor.

When a parent knows ahead of time that a relocation will be necessary after a divorce, that contingency can be addressed in the parenting plan. However, the job market being what it is, these situations can crop up quite unexpectedly and throw a monkey wrench into custody matters that are otherwise working well.

Older children may be able to adapt to shared custody situations with parents on two coasts, although with friendships and school and athletic commitments, this can be problematic for the older set as well. But when it comes to younger children, continuity and stability are especially important in order for them to feel secure in their environment.

Research indicates that children of divorced parents generally do better physically, psychologically and emotionally when both of their parents remain in the same geographical region. The 2003 study of 500 children from divorced parents indicated that kids suffered significant disadvantages such as lower satisfaction in life, hostility and distress over the divorce when one parent moved more than an hour's drive away. The younger the child, the more vulnerable they were to disruptions in attachments they formed with the parent, which in turn lead to other negative consequences that were long-term. If at all possible, it is better for the parent to wait until the child is two or even three before making the move away. Prior to that age, the child doesn't have the cognitive or language skills necessary to foster a meaningful long-distance relationship with the absent parent.

If you have to make a move out of state, make sure that you address the issue with your family law attorney to make the necessary custody modifications in your parenting plan.

Source: Psychology Today, "Relocation and Co-Parenting" Edward Kruk, Ph.D., accessed Feb. 11, 2015

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