Relocating with Children: When Divorce Enters the Equation

By Liz Perelstein, President of School Choice International

Excerpt from ExpatExchange.com

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Over the past few years I have been asked to provide expert testimony concerning education and relocation. These cases have been associated with two scenarios:

  • a potential move in a family where parents had divorced or were divorcing, or,
  • where parents have separated while on assignment and the custodial parent wants to move home while the working parent remains abroad.

As society has become more peripatetic, this issue is bound to arise increasingly. The five-year legal battle of David Goldman to gain custody of his son Sean was highly publicized because it was identified as an important precedent in custody battles during the current era of mobility. As the relocation of separated families has become more common, states within the United States have enacted legislation that addresses the issues inevitably raised. These laws vary considerably by state. Parental consent may be required so that when the non-custodial parent does not consent, the issue may be decided by the legal system. Intrastate moves are allowed more frequently than interstate moves which suggests that proximity and ongoing contact is considered crucial.

I have not found articles that deal specifically with legal considerations in international relocation for divided families; however, there have been a few studies (despite small sample sizes) that support the belief that ability to successfully maintain relationships with both parents is significant to a child’s well being (Journal of Family Psychology, 2003). Accordingly, legal requirements for international relocations most likely would be more stringent than those for domestic transfers because of the obvious fact that distance affects the ability to maintain relationships with both parents.

Families need to think about:

  • the child’s age;
  • how important the move is to the parent;
  • whether there are pros as well as cons for the child;
  • can parents keep conflict away from the child and his/her education;
  • how the child can maintain a relationship with both parents;
  • and what is the child’s personality like, in particular, does the child adapt easily to change?

Companies that relocate divorced parents have to consider:

  • the child’s age
  • legal implications,
  • timing in view of these legal issues,
  • cost and emotional impact on the employee as well as child.
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