Relocation: Coming Up with a Plan

We talked Wednesday about relocation, and specifically about how to answer one big question (that’s sure to come up in your relocation case): will you move no matter what the judge decides?

It’s a tricky question, and definitely a double edged sword. There’s no right answer, only wrong ones! I wish I had a secret, magic formula that I could give you that would guarantee success in your relocation case – but I don’t. What I do have, though, is this: a suggestion for you that, if you plan to litigate on the issue of relocation, will help.

I’m not saying it’s a guaranteed slam dunk. It isn’t. I don’t think it’s ever really possible to think of a relocation case in such hard and fast terms. Relocation is hard, and winning it is not easy, ever. But either way you go when it comes to answering the question of whether you’ll go with or without the kids, one thing is certain: you’ll want to discuss your plan.

The best way to help make sure your relocation case is a success (again, no guarantees!) is to come up with a solid plan for what your lives will look like if you win.

A big mistake that moms make is focusing all their time and energy on how relocation is in the children’s best interests, and spouting all sorts of information about the “independent benefit” to the children. Don’t get me wrong – that stuff is super important. But that evidence isn’t the only evidence that’s important. In fact, even though it’s the legal piece of the case, it’s probably not – in the judge’s view – the most important information he or she will hear in the courtroom that day. What is?

Your plan.

What do I mean, your plan? Mostly, I mean that, if/when you relocate, what will you do to support the children’s ongoing relationship with their dad? How will you help mitigate the loss of you and their father being geographically close?

You’ll want to do some real thinking – like, deep diving – into what an appropriate custody and visitation arrangement would look like. Would he get larger chunks of the summer? More holiday real estate? How often could the kids – reasonably – be expected to go back and forth? Different answers will be appropriate in different scenarios, depending on how far away your proposed relocation is. Are your children in school? Involved in extracurriculars? How will you make accommodations to support dad’s relationship with the kids?

And in what other ways will you support the relocation? Will you provide the travel? Will you finance it? Will you pay for dad’s hotel if/when he visits them at home? I’m not saying that it’s all about money, but if the move really is entirely to your benefit, it stands to reason that dad shouldn’t be disadvantaged further by it.

You don’t have to suggest all of these things – or, indeed, any of them – but you do have to show the judge that you’ve considered the impact of relocation on the kid’s relationship with their dad, and done at least some thinking on how to mitigate the negative impact. You can be as creative as you want, but you really should demonstrate that you’ve given it some thought, and then present your suggestions with as much sympathy and kindness as you can muster. It’s difficult, when you feel like your child’s father is the one thing holding you back from a better qualify of life, but it’s also a pretty dramatic request.

Relocation is NOT easy. And by asking to be allowed to relocate, you’re putting yourself in a difficult situation. You’ll want to show your commitment to the coparenting relationship especially, and demonstrate repeatedly that you have the emotional maturity to support the relationship the kids have with their dad.

Doing so from a distance is harder than doing so when you live nearby. Things that you may take for granted – Wednesday night dinners, for example, or being able to be flexible about weekends when conflicts arise – can make custody and visitation even more challenging. Not only that, but holiday real estate becomes even more contentious.

Expect that, if you win relocation, you’ll have to compromise in other areas. Whether you spend entire summers apart from your children or lose on some of the most valuable holiday time with the kids, you may find that the disadvantages are pretty significant. It’s worth having a real discussion about it BEFORE you get too far down the line to turn back. Are you willing to make the sacrifices required? It’s a legitimate question, and a real consideration.

For more information, to request a copy of our custody book or our free report on relocation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.

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