Moving Away After a Divorce

Parent Q&A

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  • I am getting divorced and have two little kids (under 4) and am trying to think through what I want my life to look like and where I’d ideally like to live. I love it up here but none of my family lives in the Bay Area - they all live in So Cal. I could make the move work - my job would support it, it'd be financially better, and I’d have so much support from family and friends. But I am grappling with whether or not it’d good for the kids to move them away from their father. (I don’t know yet if he’d support this but I have a feeling he might.) If I stay, he wants to coparent with me and help me, but he’s in a relationship with a woman whom he had an affair with which is why we’re divorcing. So it’s going to be very hard and painful for me to stay, especially since he’s the only one I can “rely” on up here for help with kids or around the house. I’m so conflicted and feel so much guilt and want to do right by the kids but also need to solve for my sanity and healing. Thoughts?

    Are you sure he will even let you move?  If you split custody, and most divorced parents (I know) now-days do (even if just to limit child support he has to pay), it will be harder to do from a distance so he might oppose it.  Definitely consider if you want to move, but do not get too deep into the planning stages until you find out if it is something you can do.  If he opposes the move away, it will be very hard to get the court to allow it. 

    On the surface, it seems like a good idea, if the ex allows it. It was hard for us raising an only child with no family around.

    It is possible to have a pretty high quality of life in L.A. with two caveats: 1) pick your neighborhood very carefully. Make sure the neighbors know each other and are friendly.  Some neighborhoods have chilly people hiding behind gates; others are filled with friendly families. 2) Live near where you work and/or where the kids go to school. In the 30 years we lived in L.A. we watched the traffic go from no problemo to nightmarish, far worse than anything here. Multiply by 10 how bad you think it could possibly be and you'll be spot on. If you can be part of a community, and can avoid fuming in your car for half your adult life, you may find it quite pleasant.

    I think you need to talk to him first. If he does not allow you to take the kids you cannot move.... but I would not move why should you take all of the responsibility of the kids while he enjoys his life with his new gf? You should stay in town... and co parent It will be better for the kids but I totally understand being in so cal with family and friends... you are in a tough position, Best of luck! 

    When I was 16, my mom left from IL for FL with my younger sister when she left my dad. It was really hard for my sister (but there was no support there). I spent a semester there, and that was really hard for me. However, I think you'll do right by your kids by being the best mother you can be, which I think you do by healing as well as you can. To me, that means having family support instead of the pain of being involved with your ex and the person he had an affair with. I do think it will be terribly hard for the kids. Maybe you can try to feel out how your kids would experience the move. There will be big changes whether or not you move.


    This is such a difficult situation--I'm sorry! I'm going through a divorce myself (with a 5-year-old in tow). I second the concern about what's legally feasible in your situation. You'd have to be sure that you have your ex's and the court's permission, essentially, especially if you've already filed for divorce or set the process in motion. If your ex fully supports your move (which means it's likely that he'll become obligated to provide child support), then you might be fine. But you'll likely have to produce something contractual, in writing, with both him and the court. 

    I can’t imagine my son growing up without his dad, who I’m divorced from. At 5 he had less pain - but he was very pained, he just couldn’t verbalize it, remember that! At 12 he desperately needs his father in his life. Get therapy, move past your anger, and think about your children over the next 20+ years.

    Hi! Wish I could send you a PM. 

    Will be praying for you and your family. 

    I'd take off so fast he'd have to eat my dust. 

    The Bay Area is amazing, but family and community are everything when you got young kiddos and need some support. And also listen to your intuition! What’s your gut telling you? 



    First, it's generally NOT good for kids to move them away from one of their parents. If you stay, they get to have both parents involved in their lives frequently. If you go, you're taking that opportunity away from them, and that's a pretty big, life-impacting, deal. As the stepmom to a kid whose mom moved away when he was 3, I have firsthand experience with how traumatic and damaging that can be and have seen the long term impact on mental health and self worth. And know that if you want to move, that doesn't necessarily mean the kids would be able to go with you.

    In our situation, mom wanted move and take the child, dad wanted to remain involved and asked for 50/50 custody. In the end, the court said if mom moves, primary custody goes to dad. Mom continued the move (the judgement came in the day before she was set to leave), and now only sees her child 3 times each year. I think she's still shocked that a judge wouldn't give primary custody to a MOM.

    Courts generally default to 50/50 custody unless there's a good reason not to. What kind of parenting schedule would you propose if you leave, that would get dad to or near 50% parenting time, assuming he wants it? In my husband's situation, the judge set the parenting schedule, and it was 1-2 months with one parent, then the next 1-2 months with the other parent. This was for a 3 year old when it began, and continued until kindergarten (now visits with mom are on school breaks).  Would you be happy not seeing your children for a whole month at a time? Would dad? Would your kids?

    It sounds like you're worried about not having support here and what dad's coparenting will look like. If he isn't interested in 50/50 custody and is only willing to be an occasional/weekend dad regardless of where you're at, it may be a different story. First start with how much time the kids will be with each parent, then see if that's possible and feasible with you two living far from each other. Talk to him (or have the lawyers talk if you can't talk to him) about what he is wanting for parenting. And if he says he's going to be involved, then actually isn't and doesn't use his parenting time, then you can ask for a move-away and suggest a parenting plan that allows that and still gives him the amount of parenting time he actually uses. But start with 50/50 and staying here if he'll be involved. Kids need and deserve both parents. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Father leaving the country - should 4-year-old say goodby?

Jan 2008

My husband and I are getting a divorce. He gave me a short notice that he is leaving the country in less than a week time. We will talk to our 4-year-old daughter about our divorce and him leaving but my question is: Do I bring her with me to the airport or not? Is it necessary for her to say goodbye to her father that she adores and realize that it will be long time before she sees him (probably summer) or I avoid such an emotional situation for this little tender soul. Her father was out of the house every week for 4-5 days. She can handle that. But I'm afraid that she is going to wait for him in vain when the time she is used of him being away passes? I don't have time to make an appointment with a child therapist and even this post might come too late, but please do you have any advice? Thank you anon

Hi, I also went through my boy's adored father leaving us and returning to his home country. For us, it was best for my boy to be age-appropriately involved in each part of his father's leaving (he was just a little younger than your child)--it was all much more organic that way and nothing happened behind his back. It helped him to see all the steps as they unfolded from our old way of living to our new way. Of course he wasn't there for crying or arguing. But he wasn't waiting for his father to come back because he saw him go. And we were able to talk freely about how different everything was now, and it made it way less scary. BIG thing I saw was that he watched me like a hawk for cues about what he should feel, so I was careful to stay positive and communicative without being phony. Good luck with your new life, it is going to be very all right. Very All Right

Don't know if this will help but I'll tell you a little story. When I was pretty little, not as young as four, probably more like 6, I got very upset when some family friends that I had gotten attached to flew away to return to their home in Europe. I developed a bit of fear around people disappearing on airplanes, so for awhile afterward my mother would take me out to the airport for fun little outings. We'd have lunch and watch people come and go, and I got to know airports as happy places where people come as well as go. Hopefully her dad will send her little presents often while he is away- I always got a thrill out of that when my father went away for business trips. Cece

I think if I were you, I would have them say good-bye at home and not at the airport, in fact I wouldn't bring her to the airport at all. That way they can really concentrate on each other. Hopefully, he can reassure her that he will be back in the summer to see her and in the meantime he will call and write her letters or postcards from where he is. I think it's really important that he stay in touch with her in some shape or form. Also, if it were me, I might choose to say MY goodbyes at home also. The airport is so impersonal and then you are left crying and have to get into your car and drive, etc.... Let him take the Bayporter... Sorry for your situation. anon

First let me say how sorry I am that you and your daughter (& husband) are going through this. As a child of divorce, I know how difficult it is...even without one parent moving out of the country. If I were you, I would let your daughter say goodbye. She loves her father and needs to understand through her own experience that he's leaving. Explain in age appropriate words that she won't see her daddy for a long time but reiterate constantly that he's not leaving because of her and she'll get to see him again. Maybe make a countdown calendar a month beforehand. She needs to know now that you both still love her. She may withdraw, act out, be sad, cry, or maybe she'll handle it well. Allow her these feelings and encourage her to talk/play out her feelings the best she can. I do encourage therapy for both of you - make time, it's so important (and helped me immensely when my parents split up). Again, I'm so sorry this is happening, but keeping the reality of it from her won't help her. He'll still be gone and she'll still be missing him and needing both of your support. My heart goes out to you, best of luck. Daughter of divorce


Moving child away from divorced parent

I am a single mother of a two year old boy. I am planning to move back to Berkeley this summer to finish school (we live in Texas). My problem is my son's father. He knows that I have considered moving back, but he will not even begin to have a discussion with me about it. He plays a very active role in our son's life and this is a big concern for me should we move. I don't want to leave him in the dark about my tentative plans, yet I have not found a very successful way to discuss the issue. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

To the mother who is considering moving away from divorced parent. I just wanted to share with you my experience with regards to a moving parent. My child's father moved away, granted only 200 miles, but it has been the most difficult situation for my son (5) ever. He is pretty close to his father, and not being able to see his father on the spur of the moment is very hard on him. He constantly blames himself and thinks his daddy doesn't love him anymore, why else would he move away! I am left to pick up the pieces because my son cries often, and he told his therapist (yes, I even had to take him there as a result) that there isn't a day that goes by that he does not think about his daddy. I separated when my son was two, thinking that he won't remember how we all lived together, but children do know. Divorce/separation is hard enough as it is, but actually separating a child from his parents in terms of physical distance is even more difficult. If there is any opportunity for you to finish your schooling in Texas, I would highly recommend it. I don't believe it is fair to your child and his father to be removed from one another, especially if the father currently plays an active role in your child's life. My family lives very far away, I am actually the only member of my family to live in this country, but I made a conscious decision to live as close to my son's father as possible, even if it means passing on the opportunities for myself (including my family). I am very hopeful that when my son is grown-up, he will appreciate all I have done to ensure he and his father are as close as possible. I wish you and your son lots of strength in this difficult situation.

Your child has an involved father -- why is this the right time to uproot him for your education? The stability of your child's life is paramount, or should be, at this time. Can you complete your degree where you are? Or, just wait. Maybe the reason you are having trouble bringing this up is that its only the best solution for you right now. Good luck whatever you decide. Heather

Well, since you didn't share more details, I can only ask why you need to move away from your child's father. If the father is very involved in the child's life, it's probably in the child's best interest to continue to have the both of you involved in his/her life. Can you continue your education in Texas? Just a thought...... L

You didn't say how long you have left in school, if you plan to return to Texas, what the father's job situation is, or what the custody situation is, so I will assume it is fairly permanent, you have physical custody, and the father can not also move. I think you have to put yourself in his place. How would you feel if he said he was moving away with your child, and you could not follow? Ruling out the option of finding a school in Texas, probably the only way to resolve this is in the courts, and I would try to make that the very last resort. It will create a financial burden, delay any move for an indefinite time, and create much hostility in your relationship with the ex. If you have to do this though, you should come up with what you think is the most fair plan, maybe even one favoring your ex, write it out, and give/mail it to him so he can read it and let it percolate without you being there for the initial angry reaction. I would also consult a lawyer beforehand for advice on how to follow up. Good luck to you both. kean

I would like to add to the chorus of people urging you not to deprive your son of close and constant contact with his father. My stepdaughters were denied frequent contact with their father (my husband) starting at 6 and 8 years old, when their mother moved to Canada. The matter ended up in the courts, which cost alot of money and created bad feelings that still persist. The girls are now in their 30's, and I believe their mother's decision has had lifelong negative repercussions for them. Both girls were very angry with her as teen-agers, and ended up moving here. The younger one still has difficulty relating to men. Young boys tend to act out or get off track in more extreme ways, when they lose a father's close support and guidance.

There is a great university system in Texas that you can take advantage of. I think (and I believe a court would conclude) that your son's best interest lies in staying where he is, and that if you feel compelled to move then your ex-husband should have custody, because he is more able to unselfishly create a stable environment for this child.

I recently submitted an email asking for advice on how to engage my son's father in a conversation about a tentative move to Berkeley from Texas. The responses I received seemed to misunderstand the advice I needed. I appreciate the point of view that everyone had; however, there are a few points that I would like to add to my predicament. I am a single mother of a two year old boy,and his father and myself have never been married. While visiting my family in Texas I became pregnant and decided to take time off from school to have my child and spend as much time as possible with him while he was still little. I chose to do this in Texas because of family support and obvious financial reasons. It has been almost three years since I left school, and I am ready to continue where I left off. I know there are schools in Texas where I could continue if need be, but I would rather finish in Berkeley. My son's father Knows that this is what I would like to do, but he won't talk to me about it. I would like to know his opinion on the matter, so that I can plan accordingly. As far as what the courts would see as the best for my son, I have to disagree with what others have to say. Although the two of them have a good relationship, he is in no way ready for the responsibilities of full-time parenthood. he only started paying child support four months ago, and has worked a total of eight months since my son has been born. My wanting to return to Berkeley is motivated by the fact that I am the one that has had to and will continue to support him, and continuing my education at a good school will open up more possibilities for us. Yes, I do realize that my son could suffer from not seeing his father, and because of this I plan to invite him to come with us. I think it is very important for children to have both parents in their life. So much so that I have put up with a great deal just so my son has a relationship with his father. The advice I need is on how to approach the situation with his father or advice from someone who has had similar exerience .

I read your letter and the first letter, and all the responses -- nobody who responded seemed to misunderstand your situation, we just all seemed to agree that the best interests of the child are paramount, and your desire to return to Berkeley is secondary. Its wonderful that you have made so many good decisions in the last 3 years. Before you commit to returning to California, I would urge you to remember that the cost of living and child care and education systems here are problematic, and that you are moving away from all the support you have, to return to a place that will be very different from when you were here before. Heather

There is a lot of advice and speculation available about what to do in a situation where a child's parents are not in a traditional family, or where the father does not live with the child. Things I have learned as a teacher of young children and separated parents. 1) you can't protect your child from suffering, you can only be with your child in a loving way as s/he faces the challenges that life gives them. Including the effects of conscious decisions--like returning to school in another state--that parents make. Our children come through us, they don't belong to us--to paraphrase Ghibran. If you can grow in love through being with your son as he grows and experiences the good and the hard in life, you're giving him a lot. 2) your own self esteem and wholeness is one of the most important things you can give your child. 3) talk clearly and honestly about your intention to return to school in CA with your son's father. Let him think about it and decide how/what to do in response---don't invite him along, let him take that initiative. He needs to be a partner with full adult buy-in to this next phase of child-rearing. 4) whatever you decide to do, stay in touch with the father in whatever way is possible. If you make this committment in yourself you will have done all you can to assure your son has access to his biological father. 5) biology is important but it isn't everything, biological determinism as the key factor in you son's emotional/psychological develpment may not be the most important dimension of his relationships with men. Sometmes god-fathers and uncles fill real gaps. (I'm not saying fathers aren't important, I'm saying you can't make someone ready to be a father through biology)