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What if your child wants to move in with your ex?

Divorce is challenging in so many ways. Just when you feel the worst is over, a new problem crops up: Your child wants to live with your ex who is considering a job transfer to another state. You share joint custody with your former spouse. You are the primary caretaker because his job requires traveling. 

You and your ex both want to do the right thing. There are pros and cons for the child living with dad. As parents, you want your children to feel comfortable and have a sense of control over their lives. It is hard to know how to handle the situation.

Talk with your former spouse in private

Early on, invite your ex to talk over the pros and cons of this possible new arrangement. Suggest that you each honestly express your feelings, concerns and how you would have to adjust your current arrangement. Solidify your feelings before you talk with the child. It is important that both parents agree. Do not let the child play one of you against the other. 

Meet separately with the child

Each parent should explain that they will separately listen to the child's reasons for wanting to move. Listen openly and do not interrupt. Help the child write a list of pros and cons. He may list pros as the fun of living in a new place, playing sports with his dad and not having so many rules. At this point, you may feel like veering off into a discussion of why your rules seem strict, but avoid the temptation. Remember, this is just a listening exercise so that the child feels heard and understood. For cons, he may say he will miss his older brother and his friends, he will not get to be on the basketball team and it may be hard to change schools.

Arrive at a final decision

After his father goes through the same listening exercise, meet privately again as parents and talk about your experiences. Discuss your concerns, adding any new ideas, anticipate that your son may have strong feelings, and come to a final decision.

Give your child an answer 

Both parents should sit with the child and tell him they have discussed several ideas about whether they could work out a new living situation. Explain that, with the father's job move, he will be extra busy and he will not know if he will be traveling even more in the new position. Because of this, you both feel it would be better to wait. 

By summer, his father will have a better idea of his new job responsibilities. Unless the father's travel schedule is impossible, suggest that the boy could live with his dad during the summer and stay with mom during the school year. If necessary, schedule a few sessions of family counseling to help the boy adjust to your decision. The father tells his son that if his job transfer requires him to travel more, he will ask the company if there is a workaround and, if not, he will try to find another job. 

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