A study by researchers at Arizona State University documents what many fathers have always known intuitively: that children of divorced parents are best off when the parents both live in the general vicinity, regardless of who has custody. This is a critical piece of information for any divorced dad who cares about keeping a great relationship with his children.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, debunks the myth found today in courtrooms all around America that it is not a problem when one parent relocates, whether that parent has custody of the children or not.
The study examined 14 variables related to the stability of college-aged students who had been subject to a divorce in their growing up years. These measures included the amount of college education contributions from their families, measures of their emotional adjustment, their level of hostility toward their parents, their romantic and friendship choices, their overall personal health, and their life satisfaction.
Here are some of the very interesting findings of this comprehensive study:
- Of the children of divorced parents involved in the study, 61% experienced a move of at least one hour’s drive by one parent at least once during their childhood.
- Of divorced children whose parents contributed to their college education, the average contribution for children whose parents stayed in close proximity was $6,154. For those who moved with their mother away from their father, the contribution dropped to $4,378. For those who stayed with mom when the dad moved away, the contribution was $5,197.
- When measuring the inner turmoil and distress from the divorce, the researchers found that the scores were much lower for children whose parents both remained close by than when either the father or the mother moved, with or without the children.
- Students in the study had better overall rapport with their parents when both were located close by than when one was located at least an hour away from the children.
This study may simply verify what parents know from their personal experience. Living near the kids without full or primary custody is a difficult enough. Extra distance between parents and children will also mean that visitation is less frequent and more complicated. It can drive unintended wedges into their relationships as well. Not being able to be with a child for important crossroads events like birthdays, recitals, and holidays due to physical distance can cause emotional distance. Even with modern technology like Skype, texts, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, nothing is better than bonding in real life.
Kids need their parents to be close both physically and emotionally. Even the best relationships become strained with added distance. When Mom or Dad misses important events in the life of their child or if there is no time invested in their relationship, both parents and child will find themselves drifting apart. But only coming to the big events is not enough. Parents need to manufacture opportunities to have some one-on-one time with the kids; this means time to talk, listen, share experiences, and build happy memories. That simply cannot be done when many miles separate a mother or father and their children.
In summation, when both parents stay located in close proximity to their children, they are better able to survive divorce. Should there be any issue with visitation and shared custody arrangements, a parent has significant reason to protest in family court. There is legal recourse for a parent who feels that their ex is cheating them time with their own children. Of course, sometimes circumstances arise where a parent cannot stay nearby their children; if given the option, consider staying close to your kids. It will make a big difference in your relationship with them.