I grew up in Paris, France and thought that I would live there the rest of my life. Then one day, my husband came home from work and announced that he had been offered a great job opportunity in New York City and that we needed to move. As a family with three young children, where the husband was the main breadwinner, whether I liked it or not, it was hard to pass on this offer. So the 5 of us picked up, packed up, and moved to the US of A!
But what happens when a couple is divorced? They are living close to each other now, so that they both have easy access to the children, but suddenly one person has an opportunity, or a desire, to move elsewhere. Is the other one supposed to follow so that they can still both be close to the children?
Recently, I actually worked with a couple where this happened. Their mediated divorce agreement stated that they were both planning to stay in New York City, but if one of them wanted to move, they would not make that decision without talking to each other and working out a new agreement. They ended up both moving to the new city so they could continue co-parenting their child.
While this situation had a happy ending, in most cases, only one party needs or wants to move, creating a huge disruption in the life of the former spouse, and especially, the lives of the children. In such a circumstance, the first thing you need to do is call your former spouse, ask to meet, and discuss the situation together. If you and your former spouse are having difficulty working this out between the two of you, seek the help of a mediator so as to create an agreement that will work best for you and the rest of your family.
Whether you are moving with or without the children, you will need to create a new parenting agreement as one of you will not be able to see the children with the same frequency as you do now. Holidays and vacations may give you more opportunities to spend extended time with your children, depending, of course, on your work responsibilities, your children’s schedules, and the distance between you and them.
Once you have your new schedule mapped out, sit down and talk to your children. They need to understand why things are changing and be reassured that they are not being abandoned. Explain to them the specific reasons requiring a relocation, and assure them that you will communicate on the phone, via skype, or text, and though it will be different than what they are used to, you will find new ways to spend time together.
Yes, life sometimes takes us to places that we never imagined we would go, but with a little planning and cooperation, you can mitigate the effects of those life changes on you, your children and your family.
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jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on