Lesson 6 of 7 - learn how to parent effectively

When a Parent
Relocates After Divorce

Checklist: Factors to Plan For

by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/parent/divorce/move.htm

Updated  03/07/2014

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      This is one of a series of Lesson-6 articles on how to parent effectively and guard kids from inheriting psychological wounds and ignorance.

      For perspective, first watch this brief YouTube video on how to improve your family's nurturance level.  The video mentions eight lessons in this self-improvement Web site - I've reduced that to seven.

      Typical divorcing and stepfamily co-parents face dozens of adjustment tasks that peers in intact biofamilies don't encounter. One of these tasks occurs when an ex mate decides to move significantly closer or farther away from their child/ren's "other home."

      This move can affect child visitations; finances; household roles, rules, and rituals; holidays; vacations; and possibly child custody and parenting agreements. Household relocations range from well-managed and peaceful to chaotic and conflictual.

      A common reason for household relocations is change in a parent's job and/or career. Other reasons are to care for an adult's disabled or aging parent/s, and/or to move closer to family. Some moves are triggered by a mix of environmental conditions (e.g. weather, crime, and urban decay). Some moves are voluntary, and others are forced by economic, health, or other necessity. Regardless of the reasons, all household moves disturb the multi-generational ("extended") family system.

      This article for divorcing-family and stepfamily adults...

  • defines a "successful relocation (household move),"

  • summarizes requisites for success, and...

  • offers a move-planning checklist.

      The article assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 6 (or 7, if you're a stepfamily)

  • 3 common stressors caused by family changes (like moves)

  • Options when a child changes primary residences

  • Resolving disputes over parenting agreements and child visitations.

 Requisites for a Successful Relocation

      Premise - "Successful" means that each person significantly affected (in their opinion) by the move's outcome eventually feels (a) "I got my key needs met well enough, (b) in a way that felt good enough to me throughout the process." How does this compare to your definition of a "successful household relocation"?

      Some key factors combine to determine whether a household relocation will be relatively smooth or stressful:

  • The stability of the two-home system before the move (chaotic > stable)

  • The wholistic health of the affected family adults (poor to excellent)

  • The effectiveness of communication and problem-solving among the adults 

  • Family members' attitudes about the move (motivated and harmonious > conflictual and resistant)

  • Who makes the decisions in each of the two related homes

  • How recently the household members have moved before (never > recently)

  • How well affected kids and adults have grieved prior losses (incomplete > complete)

  • How many adults and kids are affected by the move (few > many)

  • How well planned the move is (unplanned and sudden > well planned in both homes)

      If you feel that planning a household move affecting minor kids is "not all that complex," or "won't change too many things for us," scan this...

  Relocation-planning Checklist

      Whether your household is moving or your kids' other home is, there are many topics that will need cooperative discussion among your family members. The keys to a successful relocation plan are each affected adult and child feeling...

  • that their needs and opinions have been thoroughly considered,

  • confidence about how well family members can problem-solve together; and that...

  • inevitable compromises are "fair enough" to everyone. 

      Discuss each of the items below with other family adults and supporters to see how well prepared you are for this change in your multi-generational family system. Consider calling a family meeting to see where you all stand on these issues:

_ 1)  Everyone in both homes affected by this move  knows why and when it will happen.

_ 2)  Each of our family adults understands _ the concept of our family system, and _ how to diagram our family's structure.

_ 3)  Each child affected by the move has had ample chances to ask questions and vent about the move and its changes.

_ 4)  All our family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect child visitations

_ 5)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect child custody

_ 6)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect major family gatherings

_ 7)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect financial child support

_ 8)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect existing _ parenting agreements, _ orders of protection, and _ wills.

_ 9)  All our family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect our kids' education, tutoring, friendships, and activities

_ 10)  All family adults are clear and agreed on what physical and intangible losses (broken bonds) this move will cause each affected child and adult.

_ 11)  Our adults are clear on how we'll judge whether each child and adult is grieving their losses well enough  

_ 12)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how this move will affect our kids' medical and other insurance coverages

_ 13)  All family adults are clear and agreed on how we all will handle any significant values and loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles that occur because of this move.

_ 14)  This move will not seriously stress any marriage in our family

_ 15)  No one thinks this relocation will change our family's membership (who's included)

_ 16)  We agree that this relocation will not significantly degrade our two-home family's nurturance level.

_ 17)  We adults have discussed how this move will affect each person's dreams and hopes for the future

_ 18)  We have all discussed how this move will affect the relationships among our kinfolk, including cousins and adult siblings.

_ 19)  The adults in each home are clear and stable on their current priorities.

_ 20)  We adults have agreed on a family mission statement to guide us through any confusions and problems related to this household move.

21)  Our family adults are clear and agreed on how we will we judge if this move is successful.

_ 22)

_ 23)

   What's your reaction to this move-planning checklist? Did it create a to-do list for your adults? If so, what do you need to do now? Options - circle numbers in the checklist that should get some attention now. Rank-order them in importance. For each such item, who should take what action?


      For many reasons, a divorcing parent may need to move their home closer or farther from their child/ren's "other home." Such moves can be well-planned and cooperative or chaotic and stressful. This Lesson-6 article for family adults and supporters offers...

  • a definition of a "successful relocation,"

  • a summary of requisites for q successful move, and...

  • a 21-item checklist of topics family adults and kids need to discuss to make an effective relocation and reorganization plan..

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

      Also see this research summary on kids' often changing schools.

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