Divorcing Abroad: Child Relocation Post-Divorce

child relocationBy Wendi Schuller
Author of “The Global Guide To Divorce”

International divorce can sometimes involve an ex-spouse wanting to relocate with the children.

A way to prevent relocation is to be proactive during the divorce. If anticipating one’s foreign spouse may move, put in the divorce decree that the children will be brought up in whatever the state or country where you’re living until age 18.

Some parents have stated that their offspring will attend college in the country where they now currently reside. One father stipulated in his divorce decree which high school his sons would attend and took responsibility for paying the tuition. This prevented his wife from moving back to her home state with the boys at a later date.

In another situation, a spouse may have followed the other one to a foreign locale for their partner’s job. I know of several ex-pat men who were stay-at- home fathers in Hong Kong while their wives worked.

If in a rocky marriage, consider maintaining ties to your birth country (domicile). Perhaps freelance long distance for your old job. Have the kids continue connections with their friends and go home for long vacations. Consider renting out your house and paying taxes and upkeep.

Related: Divorcing Abroad: International Divorce 101

In the event of divorce abroad, these attachments to home could make it easier to be allowed to move back with the kids. It is imperative to get expert legal advice when divorcing as an ex-pat.

When a parent wants to move across country or abroad, it is recommended that you discuss this with one’s ex-spouse before mentioning it to the children. Have a discussion while listening intently to any objections and mention how the children can stay connected. Meet with an attorney to find the best way to proceed.

An application to relocate will be filed in court and the other parent has the right to oppose it. One item that the court will investigate is whether care is shared between both parents or is one the main caregiver. If both parents are participating in the care – school, medical visits, homework, sports and so forth, then the parent trying to prevent relocation could have a better chance of success. Be very visible to others when doing shared care to help your case.

There are various factors in deciding a case for relocation with the children and the onus is on the parent who wants to move. Has that parent who desires to start a new life abroad or across the country researched what this will involve? The court wants to know if the plan is well thought out and is a realistic proposal. The judge wants to make sure it is not a whim, but covers all aspects of the children’s lives. If a parent who wants to relocate is denied that request, will that drastically impact their life? The court looks into reasons involving the request, such as wanting to take a great job opportunity or being near extended family.

The main criteria in deciding whether or not to grant relocation, is whether or not the move is in the best interest of the children. The children’s welfare is the most important part of the court ruling. Will the relocation be positive and beneficial to the youngsters or not. The kids’ wishes are taken into consideration, but do not mandate where they will reside. Their views are a major factor in the court’s decision along with how rooted they are in their school and community. It may be that an older child stays behind and a younger one moves with the relocating parent, if that is best for the individual children.

The court will want to know how the relocation will affect the relationship with the other parent. The bond with the other parent needs to remain strong and will this still be possible if the child moves away. How much face-to-face time there will be and where will the contact take place. Will the move have the other parent going to the children in the new place, the kids coming back at specified intervals or both?

The judge will look at the motivation for the move to ensure it is not in retaliation or malice towards the other parent. Logistics have to be worked out, including who is going to pay for the new travel expenses.

A mother who moved to another European country allowed her ex to stay at her place for visits. That cut down on his travel expenses and he was less inclined to take the boy back to England for long periods. This plan worked out great, since the dad could come anytime and not have to wait to see his son during school holidays.

Being creative can be a win-win for all involved.

Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Her most recent book is “The Global Guide to Divorce” and she has over 100 published articles. Her other book is “The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce.” Learn more at her website atglobalguidetodivorce.com

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