Helping Your Child Cope with Relocating After Divorce

child custody after divorce

Many divorced parents who retain custody of their children start over by moving to a new home. Parents without custody also may establish a new home that they want their children to feel at home in when they visit. Unfortunately moving after a divorce can cause disruption and feelings of stress and insecurity for the children involved.

A study published by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology found that children of divorced parents who are separated from one parent due to one parent moving beyond an hour’s drive from the other parent are significantly less well off on many child mental and physical health measures compared to those children whose parents don’t relocate after divorce.

Among college students surveyed for the study, those whose divorced parents relocated more than an hour away:

  • Felt more hostility in their interpersonal relations
  • Suffered more distress related to their parents’ divorce
  • Perceived their parents less favorably as sources of emotional support and as role models
  • Rated themselves less favorably on their general physical health, general life satisfaction, and personal and emotional adjustment.

Many others have looked at this issue and offer insights about establishing a new home after a divorce that involves a child. Keep reading to learn more. An experienced divorce attorney at Charles Ullman and Associates in Raleigh, N.C., can assist if you are considering relocating after your divorce, including moving out of state after a divorce. Charles Ullman is among a small percentage of attorneys in North Carolina recognized by the N.C. State Bar as a board-certified specialist in family law.

Help Your Child Cope with a Move After Divorce

Regardless of a child’s age, it is traumatic for children to witness the dissolution of their parents’ marriage and the subsequent breakup of their family. You need to be patient, reassuring, and willing to listen if you are to minimize the tension your children feel as they come to terms with the new circumstances of their lives, the HelpGuide mental health website says.

The HelpGuide experts suggest maintaining a working relationship with your ex to help your kids avoid the stress and anguish that comes with watching their parents bicker and fight. Both parents should provide the same reassuring message that the change will be good for everyone individually and the family as a whole. By providing or maintaining routines your kids can rely on, you reassure your children that they can count on you for stability, structure, and care.

Other tips include:

Make your residence feel like home. Many children of divorce have two homes. In the noncustodial parent’s home especially, it is important for each child to have his or her own space, says Allow them to take part in decorating it and, of course, to keep their belongings there if they wish. Keeping to routines means making sure your child wakes up, has meals, and goes to bed on the same schedule at each home.

As you move your child between homes, make sure they bring along any items that comfort them, such as special toys, a blanket, or favorite clothes, say the makers of Our Family Wizard, a shared parenting app.

Give your child time to adjust. Every child is different, but generally, younger children adjust to the changes of a move better because they have fewer long-standing attachments. Give your kids the time they need to adjust on their own terms. This is where patience and reassurance are crucial. Keep talking to them about how they are handling the transition, and give them some space at times when they don’t want to talk about it.

Watch for red flags. While practicing patience for a child who needs time to adjust, you need to keep an eye out for signs of divorce-related emotional problems, such as:

  • Frequent angry or violent outbursts
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Poor concentration
  • Trouble at school
  • Sleep problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Self-injury, such as cutting

Discuss any warning signs you see with your ex and with your child’s teachers and doctor. Consult a child therapist for guidance on coping with specific problems.

Know Your State Laws About Moving After Divorce

While many states have specific laws about relocating children after a divorce, in North Carolina, your divorce agreement may dictate what you can and cannot do.

Your divorce order stands as a legal order. Your separation agreement or child custody order may state what you are required to do, such as to live within a one-hour drive of your former spouse to facilitate child visitation.

If you have agreed to a child custody sharing arrangement or a child visitation schedule, you cannot simply move and cause disruption that violates the intent of the agreement. This includes moving so far away that keeping to the visitation schedule is not practical.

If you have reason to relocate, you might be able to get your ex-spouse to agree to change your child custody orders, which a judge would have to approve. If necessary, you might petition the court to order the change despite your former spouse’s opposition.

Conversely, if you were to move out of state in violation of your divorce decree, your ex-spouse could potentially obtain an emergency custody order resulting in your child being forcibly returned to North Carolina. You could also be charged with contempt of court and ordered to pay a fine, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.

Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers About Relocating After Divorce

The child custody attorneys of Charles Ullman and Associates in Raleigh, N.C., can review your divorce agreement and advise you about moving after your divorce. We can help you obtain approval to move or help you stop an ex-spouse from violating your rights as a parent.

To schedule a confidential consultation about your options regarding relocation after a divorce, contact a Raleigh divorce lawyer at Charles Ullman & Associates at (919) 829-1006 or by filling out our online contact form.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.