New Dads
Single Dads


Letter From The Editor
Employee Search
Become An Affiliate

When Your Ex Moves
She's Got The Kids. Do You Fight, Mediate Or Let Her Go?

By Kevin Nelson

Imagine this: You're a divorced father. The breakup of your
marriage was hard, but you got through it and now you've achieved a sort of balance in your life. Your children stay at your house a couple of nights during the week and two weekends a month. It's not perfect, but it's better than a lot of guys you know and you're still involved big-time in the lives of your kids, which is what you want.

Then your ex-wife rocks your world. She tells you she's moving and
taking the kids with her. Not just to a condo across town, but to
another city (or even state) where she's been offered this great new job and where she can get a fresh new start.

This all-too-common scenario is what the legal profession refers to as a "move-away case." It's when the custodial parent, who is almost invariably the mother, decides to take the children and leave the non-custodial parent (that's you, Dad). Three out of four mothers with custody move within four years of separation or divorce. Some go for employment, some so their parents or other relatives can help out with the kids, some just to punish their ex husbands. These cases are among the most bitter and contentious in family law, partly because the stakes are so high.

In a single stroke, you're airbrushed out of the family picture. From coaching your kids' soccer teams, helping with their homework and
tucking them into bed at night, you suddenly become a visitor in your children's lives--and they in yours--with contact limited to long
distance phone calls and e-mails and awkward reunions in the summer or on designated weekends.

What should you do--
fight, mediate, let her go? Here are some tips
compiled from interviews with fathers who have been there:

--Try to work it out.
If you and your ex- are still talking,
talk to her about how important it is for your children to have frequent contact with both parents, and how moving is going to disrupt this. If you're not talking, suggest a mediator or therapist to get the conversation going again.

--Don't force the issue.
Especially if you think you can eventually
reach agreement. Though it's hard to live with ambiguity, being a
hard-ass will only stiffen her resistance. It's in your best interests
at this stage to be flexible, to be (ah, here's something she'll like) a good listener. Why does she want to leave? New job? Be closer to her family? She need more money? There may be ways for her to get what she wants without a move.

--Play for time.
The older your children, the stronger your case.
The longer your kids are established in their current routine -- going to school, making friends, being co-parented by the two of you -- the less they will relish the prospects of a move. If they dig in their heels, their mother --not to mention a judge -- may be less inclined to change the status quo.

--Talk to an attorney.
Specifically, a family law attorney with
experience in custody cases in your area. (See "How to Pick a Kick-Ass Attorney" on this site.) Your position is stronger if you have joint
physical custody, but there are no guarantees. Know that it will be an uphill battle no matter what. About five percent of custody cases go to trial. If you do decide to fight for what you truly believe are in your children's best interests, put a temporary restraining order on her before she moves. Challenging her after she leaves may be a case of shutting the barn door, so to speak, after the horse has bolted. Even if you decide that the financial and emotional costs of a prolonged custody fight are too high, you should still consult a lawyer to protect your visitation and other rights.

Generally, the courts have not been kind to non-custodial parents in move-away cases. In the 1990s, high courts in at least 20 states upheld the right of custodial parents to relocate. Moving is seen, in America, as a fact of life. The thinking goes that women must be allowed the freedom to move, and if they are the custodial parent, they are entitled to take the children with them. Sadly, gender still matters. All things being equal (which, admittedly, they seldom are), a father with sons has a better chance of winning custody -- and thus, stopping the move --than a father with daughters. Judges are particularly loath to separate young girls from their mothers.

A final resort is to think about following your ex-wife to wherever
she goes (we're not talking about stalking here, just moving where she does so you can be closer to your kids). Granted, this is wildly
unrealistic for most men, but it does have the advantage of keeping you in contact with the daily lives of your children. And that, in the end, may make it worthwhile.

Kevin Nelson lives in the Bay Area and is writing serial novel for called Playground Pop

Content in is meant to be distributed freely to interested parties. However, any excerpts from the stories in must credit Copyright 2000,, LLC. All rights reserved. Site Development -