There are not any problems when parents decide to relocate together with their family. Children particularly teenagers may object to moving but they are usually able to successfully adapt. It is different when parents live apart and one of them wants to move their children so far that school, relationships and parental contact are disrupted.
Parents planning a move are generally confident that their reasons for moving are good ones: parents opposing a move are usually equally certain that they are not. Children may embrace a move or resist it. They may find parental disagreement an opportunity to manipulate their parents or use it to avoid appropriate parental control. Children are vulnerable in such circumstances. While they eventually adjust to the new situation children are often stressed or emotionally harmed by conflict between their parents.
Moving with your children needs input from both parents. Before you move, you should talk with the other parent. Try to focus on the issues related to moving, not other adult issues. Try to concentrate on the needs of your children and the effect the proposed move will have on your children for example having to travel long distances to see the other parent; loss of important friendship groups at school.
If you cannot communicate effectively with the other parent consider using mediation to resolve the issues and work out the details.
Once it has been decided that one parent will relocate both parents will need to decide how each of them will continue to be involved in their children’s lives. Maintaining and promoting the parent-child relationship at a distance requires commitment and cooperation from both parents. Although it isn’t easy it can be done. Remember that your child has a right to have a significant relationship with both parents.
It might be helpful for parents who live far from one another to develop a parenting plan that in particular addresses the particular issues of parenting at a distance. A mediator is able to help parents develop such a plan. Some of the questions you may want to address in your plan are…
- When will each parent spend time with the children? – if long distances are involved it may be best for the children to spend the holidays with the other parent
- What will be the mode of transportation used when the children travel between homes? – children may need to be accompanied on the trip because lots of travel companies have age requirements for independent travel
- Who will make the travel arrangements and pay the cost? – it is important for both parents to make travel arrangements as convenient, safe, comfortable and inexpensive as possible. Both parents should have a copy of their children’s travel itinerary in advance of the actual travel date.
- How will parents and children communicate from a distance? – this is easier in the age of the internet and skype but has to be age appropriate. There also needs to be a discussion about who will be responsible for the cost of long distance calls, internet service, mobile calls and the like.
- How will parents communicate with one another from a distance? Parents will need to exchange information about school, health, and their children’s activities. This information is easier to obtain when both parents live in the same community. When parents live at a distance from each other this information can be difficult to obtain. Parents therefore still need to communicate with each other even if it feels uncomfortable keeping the focus on their children’s needs and not their relationship.
- What opportunities will each parent have to develop new family traditions? – Living at a distance will result in changes to old family habits and traditions. Try to establish some permanent holiday plans or other new traditions so the children will have these important anchors.
At Harney and Wells Family Mediation Service as experienced mediators we are able to help parents work together to ensure their children have meaningful relationships to both parents in the event of a parent relocating.
The adult decision to relocate may have significant legal consequences. If you have further questions please contact Harney and Wells Solicitors. The legal test for relocation both inside England and Wales and outside England and Wales has recently been clarified. The legal test is now the same for both types of relocation with the Court having to concentrate on what is in the best interests/welfare of the children involved having regard to all available options.