Need help with divorce strategies when you have a child you want to move out of state with...
July 19, 2011 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Need help with divorce strategies when you have a child you want to move out of state with...

I know there are naysayers out there for separating a child from their parent many miles away however, I do believe that it will be in the best interest of my child and have every intention of being very flexible with visitation arrangements with the father.

I've been researching on where our next move would be for about three years now. It started as just a "project" for me as the home we're in now was going to serve as a stepping stone and my plan was to sell when the market got better or before my child graduates from elementary school. My marriage as well as my emotional and physical health took a steep nose dive since then and I plan on dropping the divorce bomb on my husband soon. Thing is, I don't want to do this without a clear plan so I've been researching for some time now and have made a decision on where I'd like to raise my child based on the public school system and quality of life. It's about a 3.5 - 4-hour drive away.

Based on readings online and consultations from a few matrimonial attorneys, I know that I need to get the father's permission to move. I plan on breaking the news as reasonably as possible but ready for outbursts, what-nots.

Has anyone been in this situation? What strategies, tactics might you suggest when I sit down with the husband to discuss this? I've carried the weight of every single cotton pickin responsibility throughout our marriage - even for his family. If something needed to get done, it landed on me - not because I took it upon myself but because things simply would not get done unless I did it. example, it took eight years to move my MIL out and I did it because I was pregnant and knew this was not going to be a good environment to raise my child. In short, the man I married turned out to be a bum who didn't step up to his responsibilities despite the numerous and various ways I've discussed the same issues with him. I think I'm going off on a tangent here - my apologies!

Just wondering if I might be able to hear of any strategies in discussing my moving our child out of state with me. the only plan I have at the moment is to list out and show him the pros and cons. Of course, I'm assuming that I'll get primary custody of our child...but that's a whole other discussion!

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You sound all over the show here. You need a few deep breaths.

Find a lawyer and hire them. Follow their advice.

Why would you want to consult your husband, first? A good attorney can help minimize the drama and legal fallout from doing or saying anything stupid in the heat of the moment.

This is not emotional, it is contractual. LAWYER.
posted by jbenben at 11:42 AM on July 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Using a mediator rather than an attorney is another option. You'll negotiate together the settlement that makes sense for you all rather than falling to an adversarial system. It's usually more cost effective, and because you are not setting out to prove one person is "right" and one person is "wrong" it might make this all easier for your husband to agree to the changes. If it doesn't pan out, there is still the option of going to court.

I agree with jenben, though, there are steps that will need to be sorted out one by one. A move across state lines will likely be months off. First thing is to actually separate. Find support for yourself (friends, family, support group counselor, whatever), find work if you need it, then you'll get to the other stuff.
posted by goggie at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Writing this as a divorced man with two kids and 50/50 custody, no "Primary", thank you Oregon.)

If it was me, and I was determined to do this, I would first get the divorce done. Then, I would wait a year or two and see how interested he is in the kids. If he's really content with the very limited visitation I am reading-in that you'd like him to have, then bring up the move if you still think it right to do so.

Your kids won't be hurt by the delay, despite how much better another school district appears from a distance. In fact, the delay will help them deal with the divorce by not changing everything at once.

In no case would I bring up the intent to move in the first few discussions with him. It will be used as leverage against you in the divorce.

I think you may be underestimating the fierceness of fathers when faced with the prospect of having their kids taken away. I also think you may be underestimating your likelihood of getting primary custody if he contests it, this isn't the 70s. This won't be easy, don't make it harder by dumping it all at once.

The "divorce bomb" is not a great tactic. People react poorly to bombs.
posted by Invoke at 11:56 AM on July 19, 2011 [21 favorites]

Why don't you shelve the divorce for now, put forward a case to move where you want to go now, move there and at least if/when you want to get divorced later, you don't have that fight to deal with...
posted by Jubey at 12:02 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was on the other side of this. My wife took our son to live 800 miles away from where we had been living. She did this by bringing me there for a "visit" (her parents live there) and then while we were there "visiting" she told me she wanted a divorce and asked me to leave her family's property.

I didn't know what to do, so I went home. It was Christmas time and it was all very difficult and confusing. It took some time to get a lawyer and figure out how to handle everything. Meanwhile, she put him into daycare (4-year-old) down there, took a job at her father's office, etc. etc. and built a "status quo".

This essentially put her in a position of "winning" in terms of primary custody. He now lives down there and, while our divorce is not yet final, there is pretty much no way to change where he lives now.

I might have been able to do more to prevent it, but I wasn't prepared to get all aggressive and demand that she bring him back immediately. That might have made a huge difference. YMMV.

FWIW, I am extremely bitter about how the whole thing was handled and it does not help in our post-marriage parental relationship. Probably not so great for the kid's sake.
posted by doomtop at 12:49 PM on July 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I apologize if I come off too offensive, or harsh, but I just wanted to voice my thoughts as an outsider reading your posts. Since I don't have all the details of your relationship, I could be dead-wrong in my observations, however, I still hope that you could read my statements with an open mind.

You said:
I do believe that it will be in the best interest of my child...

...have made a decision on where I'd like to raise my child based on the public school system and quality of life.

Based on your post it sounds like you are justifying your move by saying that there is a better school district out there somewhere for your child, and that this move is purely for the sake of your child.

But when you say something like this:

I've carried the weight of every single cotton pickin responsibility throughout our marriage

or this:

the man I married turned out to be a bum who didn't step up to his responsibilities despite the numerous and various ways I've discussed the same issues with him.

...your earlier statements become less credible because you're clearly still very bitter about your relationship with your husband. I understand that you're hurt, and I've never met anyone who didn't want to get back at someone that's hurt them for so long. However, any reasons you previously had for moving now sound like an emotional response, not an unbiased decision. It sounds like you want to move as far away as you can from the man who caused you pain, and you want make child visitation procedures as difficult for him as possible. That's why you so willingly said this in your intro statement:

...have every intention of being very flexible with visitation arrangements with the father.

...because you know it's going to be difficult for him to visit you in another state, if not impossible considering his bum-like status. Saying something like this makes you seem like you've made a rational and unbiased decision, so most people won't argue, but secretly, this is win/win for you.

So there are a few things you should ask yourself. Are you truly moving for the sake of your child? Is the quality of life for your child so awful in your local area that you must move over 4 hours away to get anything better. Or are you making these decisions because you're hurt and want to get as far away as you can?

If I were you, I'd figure out why you really want to move. Otherwise, you might make a decision you may regret later on. And knowing the true reason might also give you a stronger stance later on in the divorce.
posted by nikkorizz at 1:11 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Interesting, nikkorizz. I think it is clear that the OP has an agenda, plus is angry and bitter. So what, tho? I can still see a move to a nicer area a few hundred miles away as an overall good thing. Truly malicious would be leaving the country illegally or false accusations of abuse. The OP here is simply trying to create the best possible environment for a fresh start. And sort out her anger while doing that

(OP, you do know you are really really angry and resentful, right? using phrases like the "divorce bomb" sound really awful coming from someone in your position. stop that!)

See a lawyer, OP. In a funny way, nikkorizz nailed exactly what I was gently hinting at in my answer. You betray yourself as much as you try to hide what you really feel.

Hire a lawyer who will pursue the resolution you want.

Don't make this personal between you and your soon to be ex, for that is where you will hurt you child.
posted by jbenben at 1:31 PM on July 19, 2011

Get a lawyer so you can be properly advised.

But I do have an idea. If you want full custody of the child and you want to move far away why not offer to forgo alimony or even a significant portion of child support? If he is as big of a bum as you describe him to be, that might be something he could go for.

Oh, and the suggestion of moving to your preferred location first and then divorcing? That's about as rotten a thing as can be suggested. I know a woman who was put through that and it was debilitating.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:32 PM on July 19, 2011

I've been on the father's side of the business (when I got informed, our children's new school was already arranged and the house closing - in another country altogether - was on the next day, at noon).

You want to get an independent opinion from a few persons who know your situation, specifically about "I do believe that it will be in the best interest of my child" and "I've carried the weight of every single cotton pickin responsibility throughout our marriage". Let me assure you that such situations tend to look very differently when viewed from the other side, bum or no bum.

He might not throw a fit at all, if he suddenly turns out a strategic thinker behind his would-be bum-ness, and if he realizes that he doesn't want to compromise the bit of quality contact he hopefully (on the basis of your "intention of being very flexible") will be able to maintain with your child. In that case you just need to talk to him and do whatever comes up in your mind. Let me suggest that there are scenarios thinkable within this framework that safely can be called emotional blackmail.

If he however does throw a fit and pulls all the legal stops, well, that would create a stink that cannot really be in the best interest of child, yourself, or him at all. I believe that you're playing with fire here.
posted by Namlit at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2011

Is it possible you could ask him for the divorce, and then talk to him about still moving to where ever it is you want to move and suggest that he move there too?

"When I say that I would be flex with visitation - this includes giving him all major holidays/school vacations, and monthly visits - perhaps every other weekend where I would come down half the time and he would come to me the other."

That sounds generous but also something you might really regret in 2 or 3 years when you are trying to have a semi-normal life. You really want to give up Xmases forever? Or suffer your kids to once a month 4 hour roadtrips?
posted by ian1977 at 1:45 PM on July 19, 2011

In terms of practical solutions I would suggest that if you need to divorce that man (and apparently you do), you should try to stay reasonably close to the place and attempt to organize a 50/50 custody arrangement. It would help you live 50% of your life, and give him the chance to keep contact with his-your kid and take some responsibility that he would be able to sort out for himself, sans control. But I'm European; this tends to be a default solution over here.

If that's impossible for whatever reason, I'd try to find it in a 1 1/2 to 2 hours distance at the most. 3.5 to 4 hours is pretty darn difficult to manage.
posted by Namlit at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP: Because your question contains very specific details pertaining to a FUTURE legal issue (i.e. a whole lot of random internet people now know what your husband does not: that you are planning to divorce him), you might want to e-mail a moderator and ask to make this question anonymous and remove geographic details from your Metafilter profile.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:53 PM on July 19, 2011

Look for a child-focused program that helps kids deal with parental separation. Divorce can be very hard on kids. Make these large steps a lot more slowly and cautiously. My ex- is a jerk, a deadbeat, and worked hard to sabotage my son's relationship with me. But he loves our son, and was actually doing his best, in his own way. I'm glad that I supported and enabled my son's relationship with his dad, and so is my 23 year old son.
posted by theora55 at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

IANYL, TINLA, etc. I have serious doubts about your reasons for the move. The fact that you didn't have a specific opportunity that came up, or a specific need to address, as well as the fact that you had to research it, suggests you're moving for your own reasons that have nothing to do with your child(ren). Except in cases of abuse, etc, children are always harmed when they move away from one of their parents. The only question is what benefit they get that will outweigh it.

I'd suggest that you research where you can move either locally, or within an hour's drive of where you are now. First, because it will minimize the harm to your children, and maximizes their father's opportunity to be involved responsibly in their life. Also, while it's difficult at first, in the long run, a friendly relationship with the other parent will save aggravation and money, and will be a huge benefit to your kids. It will also get easier with time.

I suggest you get a good and experienced family or matrimonial lawyer to advise you as to whether this is really a good idea, rather than to just do what you think you want. It would be best to look for someone known for problem resolution rather than someone who thinks "aggression" is good in this context. At my firm, we do a lot of this kind of work. People with aggressive postures invariably cause both parties to basically waste tens of thousands of dollars in high-conflict litigation. I always hate seeing it, and I usually advise my own clients up front to try to find an amicable resolution so they can spend that money on their kids.
posted by Hylas at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suggest that one of the important criteria you should consider is 'geographic proximity to the co-parent of my child'.
posted by bq at 6:49 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most states require parents to agree on a "Parenting Plan" before a divorce can be granted. The plan should make very clear when the child will be with each parent, how decisions will be made, and exactly what each of you means by "the best interest of the child." Try doing a Google search using the name of your state and the words parenting plan. Even though you can and certainly should seek advice of legal counsel, drafting your own Parenting Plan may help you to sort out your priorities and strategies.

It sounds like you already have some strong opinions of what should be in the plan for your child, but keep in mind, your husband's opinion may be very different from yours and it may change over time. When I left my husband, there was no question about who should have custody: I had always been the primary caregiver for our daughter. But over time, the custody arrangement became an issue. As our daughter got older and more self-sufficient, my ex began to enjoy her company more & more. Plus, how much time a child spends with the non-custodial parent, will factor directly into how much child support that parent is required to pay. And most importantly, there will come a time when YOUR CHILD may want to have a say in the matter.

You stated that you would be generous with visitation, "giving him all major holidays/school vacations." You might want to reconsider that. My ex lives out of state (he moved when he remarried) and argued in court that he should have our daughter for the entirety of each school break. I'm glad my attorney helped me to advocate for having her spend some of her vacation time with me. Without it, I'd be a cozy boarding school - I'd have all the work of PTA meetings, parent teacher conferences, homework, etc., without the reward of a two week vacation. (In truth, I love those school related responsibilities, but without the opportunity to enjoy time off with my daughter, I think I'd become resentful.)
posted by kbar1 at 8:41 PM on July 19, 2011

I once read some advice that a good measure of whether your proposed custody plan is reasonable is whether you would be willing to be in the other person's position. What if your husband had custody, moved 4 hours away and gave you 'flexible visitation'. Does that seem like something you would accept?
posted by plonkee at 1:08 AM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Was just going to chime in with what plonked said.

There's nothing generous about what you're doing. It's absolutely heart breaking. Parents are devastated (moms and dads) when they are no longer a part of the daily fabric of their children's lives.

And guess what --- children need them to be.

If your ideal scenario is that your husband is fine and comfortable with you moving out of state, then your ideal scenario is that your child has a heartless dad---you are invested in your child's dad being uncaring, because it's more convenient for you.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:51 AM on July 20, 2011

Not everyone is as passionate about their kids, unfortunately.
What I have, apparently too subtly, been trying to point out, others less subtly, is that it is not yours to decide whether your husband belongs to those people who will not be passionate about their kids.
It is a common fallacy to let one's disillusionment about one's partner, in situations like yours, negatively influence one's expectations of their general functionality in a changed parenting situation, and especially, to use one's disgruntlement as a go-ahead to disregard their feelings and to sniff at their dignity.
You are, as you have phrased your plans, acting as if you are the sole member of the family with the ability, even the right, to make groundbreaking decisions that will change the lives of all the three of you. You are taking a huge responsibility on the grounds of assumptions about your husband's feelings and future abilities to act around, engage with, and love your kid, that, statistically, are unlikely to be entirely correct.
On top of this, your phrase ...most likely mean moving to an area that may not have a good school system contains not one but two modifiers. You're fooling yourself. It's a red herring.
Please reconsider.
posted by Namlit at 7:39 AM on July 20, 2011

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