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Your Divorce Advisor

Your Divorce Advisor newsletter # 3.

If you like our newsletter, and if you like our book, please tell your friends about it. Word-of-mouth is important for a book like ours, because helping people with simple, sane solutions and practical, down-to-earth information isn't always splashy enough for TV and magazines.

It's people like you, one at a time, helping one another, that helps to get the word out, and we thank you for that!

Very truly yours,
Diana Mercer, Esq., and Marsha Kline Pruett, Ph.D., M.S.L.
authors of Your Divorce Advisor

Relocation is an increasingly complex topic in today's mobile society. As parents try to reconstruct and redefine post-divorce job security and success, childcare assistance, and remarriage, physical moves frequently enter the picture, hindering a spouse's ability to gain emotional distance in the divorce.

We've got a few thoughts on relocation issues, and let us share them with you.

The first threshold is to be honest with yourself. Is your desire to relocate based on your children's best interests, or your best interests? As with so many issues in divorce, relocation decisions are typically based on the adult's best interests, and the children are brought along in the process.

In most cases, moving the children from their home, school, community, friends, extended family, and the other parent is unlikely to be in the children's best interests. That's not to say that it has to be AGAINST their best interests, or that it should never be done, but carefully examine your motivations for moving.

Is it really a better job, with better security? Will the extra money be worth the long-distance telephone bills and travel costs for contact with the other parent? How will you arrange for the children to see the other parent, and to maintain their relationships with extended family members who will be left behind?

How well do your children adapt to new situations, and how easily do they make new friends? How would you feel if you were the other parent, and your children were moving away from you?

Before announcing your intent to relocate with the children, examine the realistic possibilities that the other parent, and the court, will endorse your move. Each state has its own formula for permission to relocate children.

For example, in Connecticut the moving parent must prove there's a valid reason for the relocation, and the other parent must prove it is not in the children's best interests to move.

In California, the primary custodial parent is presumed to have the children's best interests in mind, and will be permitted to move unless the other parent can prove the move is not in the children's best interests. Make sure you know where you stand before starting your move preparations.

What is the best way for you to minimize the negative impact on the children? Some suggestions include: investigating the new town to find the best schools, daycare, and kid-friendly neighborhoods; making sure you're moving to a safe area with low crime statistics in areas likely to affect people of your children's ages; spending time in the new town to make sure you're comfortable, and that the children are familiar with their new surroundings before moving; making sure the job you're taking is secure; and if you're moving for a new relationship, using couples' counseling to assess the stability of your new commitment and potential step-parent issues that will inevitably arise.

Your primary commitment is to insure that the "stay behind" parent will have meaningful, ongoing contact with the children. Be prepared to suggest a generous parenting schedule, and investigate realistic travel plans and costs. This may mean being without your children for many holidays and school vacations.

For many who are divorcing, relocation is not currently an issue, but the future is unclear. If relocation could become an issue, it's helpful to deal with it as part of your negotiations, and build provisions for relocation into your agreement.

Many couples include notice provisions if one parent seeks to relocate, e.g., the parent seeking to move will give the other parent at least 60 days notice of the intent to move. This gives the parents an opportunity to discuss the situation and to investigate options, as well as enough time to petition the court for an injunction preventing the move if the matter isn't resolved in time.

Other provisions can include "free zones" for moving without the other parent's permission, e.g., either parent may move within 30 miles of the other parent or the current city or neighborhood without triggering a relocation custody issue. You can also build goals into your agreement, e.g., the children will not change schools except by mutual agreement.

Relocation is always a tough issue.

For More Information please read Chapter 8 "Legal and Residential Arrangements: Finding Familiar Paths for Your Family" in Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce, available at $14 at bookstores everywhere.