After a divorce or separation, one of the hardest things to deal with is not being with your children as much as you once were. Even when sharing 50/50 custody, your time with your kids is greatly reduced. This is especially difficult for non-custodial parents who live in a different state than their children. It is not uncommon for parents or children to have to relocate after a divorce, and this can put a strain on the parent-child relationship.
Reasons a parent or child may need to relocate after a divorce:
- To get a better job
- To be closer to extended family
- To gain access to a better school district
- To give the child a better quality of life
Moving away from your children is never an easy decision to make, but it is sometimes necessary. It is important to remember that relocation does not mean that you are any less invested as a parent. It also does not mean that you cannot have a meaningful relationship with your children.
Keep reading for three helpful tips on co-parenting when you live out-of-state.
Stay in Touch with Your Children
When your children live in another state, it is hard not to feel the distance. Visits are often few and far between. Even if you have an arrangement where the children spend their school holidays with you, you may be going months at a time without seeing them in person. In cases like this, it is important to stay in close, regular contact with your children. Children can often feel destabilized and unsure about their relationship with their parents after a divorce and/or relocation. Consistency is important when establishing trust and stability.
Work with them and your co-parent to establish a schedule for phone or video calls. This can be tricky if you live in different time zones but try to have a standing phone call with your kids that they can rely on. Also, make sure your kids know they can reach out to you outside of these scheduled phone calls. While you may know that you will always be there for your children, they may feel unsure because of the distance. It is important to demonstrate that you are there for them by being consistent and available.
Communicate with Your Co-Parent
Open communication with your co-parent is incredibly important, especially if you live in another state. Just as you want to stay in regular contact with your kids, work to keep in regular contact with your co-parent as well. Figure out the best way for you to communicate about your children, whether via phone or video calls. If you are in a high-conflict situation where communication is difficult, you may prefer to communicate via email or text.
Make sure your co-parent knows that you are interested in your children's day-to-day lives and that you want to be involved. Do not assume they know this. While you cannot always be there for things like doctor's appointments, be sure to check in with your co-parent regularly about what is going on with your children. In some cases, you may be able to attend some meetings virtually, such as parent-teacher meetings. Work with your co-parent to find a system that works for both of you and which keeps you informed.
Relatedly, you may find that having a shared calendar helps aid communication. Being able to see when the kids have important events, doctor's appointments, sporting events, or meetings coming up can help you stay current with what is going on, even when you are not there.
Make Plans to Visit Your Children
When one parent lives out of state, children will often spend part of the year with each parent. However, this does not necessarily mean that you cannot make plans to visit your children when they are with their other parent. Depending on the terms of your custody arrangement, you may be able to work out extra visits with your co-parent and vice versa.
For example, if your children are with their other parent during the school year, you may be able to plan weekend visits to see them during the school year. Many parents will plan visits around important events, such as music recitals, sporting events, and graduations. This allows you to see your children more often and help you be present for important events.
Similarly, if they are with you during the summer, you may want to work with your co-parent so that they can visit the children or take them on a summer vacation. It is important to remember that just as you miss your children when they are not with you, so too does their other parent.