Life involves change. And there are many changes in life, such as going from being single, to married or partnered, to possibly having children…and then maybe crash: separation or divorce. And there may be the possibility of another life change: you want to relocate to a different area, but your parenting plan cannot continue without making some changes as well. What do you need to know and consider?
There are many reasons you may wish to move, such as living in a different climate, or perhaps moving near family in a different state who may have offered to help with child-care. Or you may have been offered a good job in another location or you just need to find some place cheaper than New York, where the cost of living is so high. Or you may just feel you need a fresh start far away from your ex.
While you are free to move whenever and wherever you want, by yourself, you cannot do the same if you share parenting time with your children’s other parent unless they agree.
If you cannot work it out on your own, you may wish to use a neutral third party such as a parenting coordinator or mediator. If you need additional support, you may wish to consult with a collaborative attorney or a family specialist who works in the collaborative process. In the collaborative process, each of the parents is represented by an attorney and a family specialist is part of the team, to ensure that the child(ren’s) best interest is kept in the forefront of any new parenting plan and to handle any strong emotions that come up during the collaborative meetings and in between.
Many variables need to be considered -- the age of the children and their stage in development, and what a shift in a parenting schedule will mean for the relationship of the children with the other parent. For example, a six year old will react differently than a sixteen year old to less time with the relocating parent or the parent who is staying in place. You also need to consider how the change will impact the children’s peer relationships and friendships, and how a change in schools will affect the children. The children’s mental and emotional health also needs to be considered.
When one parent relocates, the parenting plan must include new details such as travel arrangements, elongated vacation and holiday times, creative ways to make use of technology in which the other parent may have time with the children, and how those logistics will be paid for. The parents will need to work together to develop a flexible arrangement which keeps the best interests of the children in mind. Doing so with the help of a Collaborative interdisciplinary team can be very useful in addressing this situation.
Written by Catherine Canadé, Esq. and Bob Raymond, PhD.