When you have kids and you have gone through a divorce, something that comes up for a minority of families is the issue of moving out of the town or the city or the state where they’ve been living as a family. And that may be coming up during the divorce process, but often it comes up after your divorce has concluded and a couple or a number of years have passed and something in your or your ex’s life changes, a new job, a new significant other, or any variety of things, that leads them to want to or you to want to move out of state or far enough away from where you currently live that your current parenting arrangement with your kids will not be practical in the new location. I would say that’s really the distinguishing factor in terms of a move.
If you or your spouse is anticipating or wishes to move so far from where you currently live that your current parenting plan would not be practical, that is a significant issue that comes up for a minority of families post-divorce.
One of the things that couples will do as part of their divorce negotiation process is they will speak in the custody and parenting section of their agreement to how they will resolve it in the future if one of them wants to move.
Sometimes couples will know that within a certain number of years or even months, one of them is going to have to move. And that’s almost an easier situation because you know what you’re dealing with and you can solve for it in your agreement. But many couples, either one or both of them is or are uncertain about whether or not they may move in the future. And so, in the agreement, you can say, “Well, if one of us has to move beyond this distance away or to this state, this is the parenting arrangement that we will agree to. Here’s an alternate parenting arrangement.”
If you aren’t certain what your parenting arrangement would change to if one of you moved, you can set out a mechanism or a process for agreeing to a revised parenting arrangement.
So you can say, “If one of us has to move, we agree that we will meet with our mediator or our child’s therapist or a couple’s therapist (whoever you choose) to act as a neutral to help us come up with a parenting plan that works at that time, because we don’t know if one of us is going to have to move, and if one of us does, we don’t know when that will be. We have no idea what our kid’s needs will be at that time, so we’re not comfortable putting a schedule in the agreement. There are just too many variables to solve for. But we are comfortable committing to meet with a neutral professional to work out what that revised schedule will be.”
And of course, if you can’t work out what a revised schedule will be, you always have available to you the option of going to court and asking a judge to make the decision for you.
And in fact, in reality, even if you set out in your agreement what the revised schedule will be if one of you moves, most likely, if either of you did not agree with that schedule in the future, you would still have the ability to go to court and say, “I know we said this, but for XYZ reasons, this schedule we came up with five years ago doesn’t work and I’m requesting a different schedule and I want the judge to weigh in on what the schedule should be despite what we’ve written in our agreement.”
What I would say that I see where couples have separated a far enough distance apart that any kind of regular, certainly 50/50 schedule, is just not practical, even an alternating weekend schedule is not practical, is you’ll see that the parent who does not have the child or the children with them the majority of the time will have some kind of expanded visitation during most or all of the child or the children’s school holidays. So, certainly the summer but then also all the school holidays throughout the year, some of which overlap with federal holidays. And others like a fall break or a winter break or a spring break don’t necessarily overlap with holidays, but they’re just times when your child doesn’t have to be in school and thus wouldn’t be missing school to visit the other parent.
That’s generally the solution that couples come up with, but there are a lot of ways to be creative about ensuring that your kids have quality time with both parents, though certainly moving a far distance away, moving out of state, does make that more challenging.