Children often view relocation differently than their parents. While parents may view it as a fresh start after their chaotic divorce, children may feel forced to leave the familiar comfort of home.
In Kentucky, relocation is allowed for divorced parents if the relocating parent obtains the other parent’s consent before moving. The case may go to court if the other parent objects to the move, but the court will allow it if the relocating parent proves they have good faith reasons for their decision to move. They must show they will live somewhere with a better standard of living, near caring family members, or with rewarding jobs and educational opportunities. Depending on the family’s unique situation, they may also demonstrate that the other parent only places the child in imminent danger through violence, abuse and other risky behaviors.
When a court decides to allow relocation, the moving parent’s responsibility becomes how to help the child endure the changes in their environment.
Helping children cope
Older children may have an easier time adjusting to a move. Studies suggest that parents with younger children should wait until their child is about 2 or 3 years old before relocating. During these developmental years, their child may be more capable of processing their long-distance relationship with the other parent.
As they continue to grow, the number questions they might have also grows. Thus, parents must actively guide them by:
- Increasing the child’s involvement in decision-making: When everything seems to be changing, giving children a sense of control over specific things, such as choosing the supplies they will use in their new school or the color of their new room, can reassure them that there is no cause for worry.
- Keeping established routines: Maintaining a level of normalcy through activities children are accustomed to – when to eat, sleep and play, or what to do every weekend – can keep them grounded.
- Building new experiences and social networks: Introducing children to new cultures, interactions or friends can lead to a deeper appreciation of their new communities and a more meaningful sense of belonging.
Parents must also be mindful of their attitude about the relocation because their child looks up to them. If they seem anxious or stressed, the child will most likely feel the same way. Thus, they must openly communicate with their child how relocating requires considerable adjustments to make it a positive transition.
Uprooting to a new city, state or country is naturally overwhelming. But if the parent and child grow together in the process, it can be a worthwhile decision. Further, since circumstances are fragile, especially considering the other parent’s visitation rights, the relocating parent must always work closely with their counsel to comply with court orders for custody and parenting time and protect the peace of their new home.