Relocating with Children: When Divorce Enters the Equation

July 6, 2010

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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Education Outside The Classroom

August 6, 2009

Remember that what your children learn outside the classroom is just as important as what they learn inside. Relocation is an excellent time to remember this fact.

When choosing a school, make sure to pay attention to the programs offered in art, music, dance, theater, athletics, and after-school activities. Do any of them seem to exist simply to meet national or other requirements, or have the programs been developed thoughtfully? These programs may go a long way as far as helping your children through the process of settling in their new school, and they will grow in the process.

tennis

Do the schools you are looking at offer field-trips for the students? What kinds and how often?

Many schools might be limited in their offerings outside of the classroom. Still, recognizing the importance of this sort of education, there are some easy things you can do with your child that will go a long way:

-Learn folk songs of your new country and teach them to your child. Sing them around the house. Challenge your child to think about them: in what ways are they different from or similar to folk songs from home? Are they in a different language? Do they have a different mood? Can you sing a melody and have your child guess if it sounds like a folk song from home or from your new country?

-Once settled in your new home, don’t rely only on old familiar recipes. Explore, with your child, the cuisine of your new country. What familiar tastes do they use? What tastes are new and surprising? Does the kitchen smell different from how it smelled at home?

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

-When possible, museum trips, walking tours, etc., are great ways of teaching your children about their new surroundings. These don’t have to be boring for your children. Focus on the things that interest them (the natural history museum isn’t inspirational for everybody!). If your young child is fascinated by fire trucks or playing war, take them to visit the local firehouse or a museum about an important war in your new country’s history. If your child loves animals, take them to the zoo or aquarium can teach them about local species that might not have populated your old home country.

Suffolk Regiment Museum

Parents know that activities like these are great for any child, but it’s easy to forget about them during a difficult transition and move. If you can find time to explore them, though, they can go a long way in both easing the transition for your child and teaching them in the process.