If you have been through a divorce or are in the process of going through one, you already know that it can cause a lot of drastic changes in your life and the lives of your children. One of those changes could be moving to a different state. It’s estimated 17-25% of custodial parents move out of their previous community within two years of a divorce. But moving isn’t always easy, especially after you’ve gone through a divorce.
There are a lot of factors to consider, particularly if you’re considering moving to a different state. If you and your ex share custody of your children, one of the first things you should do is to review your custody agreement and seek clarification from your lawyer about a potential move. If your agreement says you have to stay put until all the kids turn 18, there's no point upsetting your ex by telling them you want to move away.
However, if your agreement doesn't preclude a move, you should schedule some time to talk to your ex about it; as co-parents, it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page. That might require you to put your own feelings aside, as you both have to come to an understanding about what’s best for your kids. The easiest way to do that is probably to talk about it (assuming you have a friendly relationship with your co-parent/ex-spouse).
If you don't have children, or if they have all passed the age of majority in your state, you're free to move without any discussion with your ex.
So, what are the benefits of moving after a divorce and starting the next chapter of your life? What are some of the issues you might face, and how can you help your kids (if any) to get through the transition?
What You Should Know About Moving to a Different State When Divorced
Making Sure You’re Prepared
Moving out on your own after a divorce can feel a lot like moving away from home for the first time. No matter how long you were married, starting a “new life” can feel overwhelming. So, it’s important to prepare yourself as much as possible. One of the most practical things to do is to go over your budget and make sure you are financially able to move. In order to make sure your finances are in order for a move, keep some of the following things in mind:
In addition to making sure you’re financially prepared, it’s a good idea to get a jumpstart on the moving process as soon as you decide it’s the right thing for you. As noted above, if you have children together, you may not be able to move away with them without your ex-spouse's permission. In some cases, the court might be a part of the decision on whether you can move across state lines with your children. Be prepared to face some challenges if you do have to get the court’s approval, including:
- Do your research ahead of time to factor in extra living costs
- Calculate how much you can afford
- Think about what you need to buy
- Build your budget and cut back as needed
If you do get the green light from your ex and the court, make your life easier with a few organizational and housekeeping tips before you go. That includes things like purging items you don’t need, officially changing your address on all of your documents, and hiring movers to help you with the big day.
- You may not be able to travel more than a specific number of miles away
- Your visitation arrangements will have to change
- The court may grant sole custody to one parent in order to create a more stable living environment for the child(ren)
Getting Your Kids Ready to Move
One of the most challenging things about moving to a different state after a divorce can be preparing your kids for it. Not only do they have to deal with many of the same stresses of separation that you do, but they have to leave behind their school, friends, extracurricular activities, and perhaps the only home they’ve ever known – and, most importantly, their other parent.
While younger children are often resilient about such things, you might struggle more if you have a teenager who has already planted roots in your current community.
One way to help your older children deal with the move is to keep them as involved as possible. Ask them about their thoughts on moving and where they might like to go. Talk about the things they might want to do in a new school or community. Let them know your thought process (when it’s appropriate) and make sure they always feel like they’re in the loop. Doing so will help to douse some of the tension and frustration they might be feeling about leaving.
No matter what age your children are, help them deal with a move by encouraging them to maintain their current friendships and their relationship with their other parent. Technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends and keep up strong relationships no matter where you are. If you encourage your children to talk with your co-parent and the friends they have in your current community, they’re less likely to feel alone or completely uprooted when you move.
Is Moving to a Different State Worth It?
Getting a divorce, packing up your things, and heading to a different state might sound like the beginning of a country-western song, but it’s a reality for a lot of people who are trying to start the next phase of their lives – particularly if they're offered a great job in another state, or if they want to move back to their hometown where they have friends and family.
There are a few major factors in whether or not a move is worth it after a divorce. One of the biggest components is your custody arrangement. Moving away if you have sole legal and physical custody will be much easier than if you share custody with your former spouse. Additionally, if you need support and you’re on your own where you’re currently living, moving closer to family could benefit you and your kids, but only if it works out with the legalities of your divorce.
If you’re thinking about making a move after your divorce, the best thing you can do is to weigh all the pros and cons – especially if you have children. Your children's safety, mental health, and happiness should always be top priorities, and the same goes for yours.