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In Class - Braver et al 2003 - excerpt

In Class - Braver et al 2003 - excerpt - Journal of Family...

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Relocation of Children After Divorce and Children’s Best Interests: New Evidence and Legal Considerations Sanford L. Braver Arizona State University Ira M. Ellman Arizona State University and University of California, Berkeley William V. Fabricius Arizona State University Relocation cases, in which a divorced parent seeks to move away with the child, are among the knottiest problems facing family courts. The recent trend is to permit such moves, largely because of Wallerstein’s (1995) controversial amica curiae brief, which a recent court ( Baures v. Lewis, 2001) interpreted as supporting the conclusion that “in general, what is good for the custodial parent is good for the child” (p. 222). The current study provides the first direct evidence on relocation by dividing college students into groups on the basis of their divorced parents’ move-away status. On most child outcomes, the ones whose parents moved are significantly disadvantaged. This suggests courts should give greater weight to the child’s separate interests in deciding such cases. Americans are a mobile people for whom moving is a relatively common experience. According to 2000 U.S. Census data, between March 1997 and March 1998, 16% of all Americans moved (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). About 43% of the movers left for a different metropolitan statistical area. The adults most likely to move are those between 20 and 34 years old, ages at which they are likely to have young children. 1 Undoubtedly for that reason, chil- dren are, on average, more likely to move than are adults. Between March 1997 and March 1998, 23.5% of all chil- dren between 1 and 4 years of age moved. Children between 5 and 6 moved at an annual rate of 17.9%. Rates for older children were a bit lower. People appear especially likely to move after their mar- riage fails. Ford (1997) showed that within 4 years of separation and divorce, about one fourth of mothers with custody move to a new location. In Braver and O’Connell’s (1998) data set, 3% of the custodial parents who could be located moved out of the area within 12 weeks of the divorce filing, 10% moved away within a year, and 17% moved within 2 years. As explained more fully below, among the college students surveyed for the current study whose parents had divorced, 61% experienced a move of more than one hour’s drive by at least one parent at some time during their childhood; of the divorced sample, 25% moved with their custodial mother away from their father. Postdivorce moves give rise to legal disputes primarily when the custodial parent seeks to move with the child and the other parent objects to the move’s impact on his 2 con- tacts with the child. This fact pattern is, therefore, the focus of this introductory discussion, but we later return to the companion case, in which the noncustodial parent relocates, leaving the custodial household behind.
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