At some point in the divorce process, either you or your STBX or even both of you are going to have to move and the Realtors are right: it’s all about location. Except that it isn’t about property value. Where you both choose to live will have an enormous and profound impact on your children.
When INRIS and his wife were splitting up they were committed to doing what was best for their children who at the time ranged from just two years old to second grade. That commitment was fundamental to their housing discussion. Here’s INRIS:
When we were choosing how we were going to physically separate our households, there’s two issues. One is, “Where do you relocate? How do you relocate?” The other is, “How do you broach the subject with the kids,” and that, “How do you broach the subject with the kids,” involves both question of timing as well as presentation.
I had started looking for a place before she had and I found the perfect place. Then, when she realized we were coming up on our, “It’s time for us to start moving out,” she didn’t have as much time to look for a place, but we had discussed it and it was her suggestion we should live relatively close to each other. At least within the same boundaries of the same elementary school, because that would make it easier for the kids if they forget something at one parent’s house, they can go to the other one.
Actually, for the first year we lived within a couple of blocks from each other and it was fine. Inevitably, when it came for new leases, her rent went up too high, so she had another place. She moved a little bit further away, but stayed within the same boundaries of the middle school that our oldest ended up going to—where he goes now.
Again, her criteria of when she was looking for a place was very much influenced by wanting to keep the kids in the same schools and recognizing that next time it might be my rent that goes up too high. So, if I have to move out, it’s just this general idea of, “Let’s try to introduce as little as unnecessary disruption as we can.”
It’s not that you both have a say on each other’s choice of housing but rather that you can commit to some unifying principle, such as staying within the enrollment area for your child’s school. So long as you stay within that commitment, you have freedom of choice.
When my ex and I separated we agreed we’d both stay living in the same small town because it meant that the kids would stay at the same schools, they would be able to keep the same friends, and stay in the same activities without it being a logistical nightmare.
We are within walking/cycling distance and there are safe pathways for the children. That meant that the kids could move between the two houses with a degree of flexibility. We still had a parenting plan with designated overnights but it didn’t prevent the children from spending time at the other parent’s house if that’s what they wanted to do.
And as INRIS says, if they forgot something at the other parent’s house, it was easy to retrieve.
This does come with cautions … first, having two homes within close proximity gives a pre-teen or a teenager the perfect alibi. They can say they’re at their other parent’s and be someplace completely different. This means that you and your ex have got to be functioning as a parenting team. You’ve got to be communicating about who is the “responsible parent.”
I always wanted my kids to feel that my house was their home, that they didn’t a hotel reservation to be here (a.k.a. the designated parenting time). So I installed a combination lock key box on the outside so they could always find a key and let themselves in. I also had rules about them telling me they were coming in case I wasn’t at home. I love how this worked out and I think it worked great for the kids but it does mean recognizing that your kids could be stopping by at any time. That’s never been a problem for me but if you’re dating it could cause some complications …
INRIS blogged about his divorce while it was in progress over at It Never Rains In Seattle … that’s how I first connected with him. It’s definitely worth visiting and looking through the archives.
Photo Credit: 2014© www.clipart.com