What it feels like to lose a family court relocation case

“I was forced to raise my kids in Texas for 14 years” (NY Post) is an interesting piece regarding how it feels to come out of a garden-variety U.S. family court lawsuit.

The husband and wife both want to get rid of each other, but are trying to be strategic about it (and certainly neither of them seems to care about the kids!). The wife is unwise enough to agree to move to Texas where divorce is not a terrifying prospect for the loser parent. Child support is capped and, by statute, the loser parent can take care of the kids up to 43 percent time, including a 30-day summer vacation. Alimony is capped and generally disfavored. The husband figures this out and sues her in Texas before they end up in some jurisdiction that is less favorable to the “breadwinner parent”.

The mom/author becomes the winner parent, but experiences the win as a loss because the husband won’t agree to let her move with her winnings (the kids) to New York or Boston (the author doesn’t mention it, but if she had moved and the husband ever moved out of Texas, she might have been able to collect 5-10X as much in child support cash; see “Relocation and Venue Litigation”).

The author forgives herself for her role in breaking up the kids’ home:

I was afraid to tell my daughters about the divorce, and I delayed the conversation. Finally, one day when they were playing catch, I told them that sometimes parents live in two different houses and that is what we would be doing and everything else would be the same. They said OK and asked if they could go back to playing catch. I realized at that moment that if I could, in fact, keep everything else the same, or close to it, their lives would be as good as any other kid’s.

This perspective is not supported by the research psychology literature, but Americans have convinced themselves of it. (some references) The “single parent” believes that she will be a role model for the girls:

In Texas, I raised my children and myself, I like to say. Being stuck first in a bad lonely marriage and then held by law in a bad lonely place turned me to steel. For 14 years, I believed that I could withstand any assault and resist weakness of any kind. I could do anything, say anything, fight for anything. I was independence personified, a show of strength that my daughters could rely upon and emulate.

This is true, statistically and anecdotally. The researchers say that children of single parents are more likely to become single parents. The lawyers say that daughters of moms who collect child support are more likely to become child support plaintiffs.

The kids’ inheritance and college funds are diverted to the lawyers:

Although our divorce was finalized in 2003, for a stretch of years after that, there were additional lawsuits over custody and visitation rights, one after another.

Not having read the Nurture Assumption, she believes that her 14 years of litigation and living where she didn’t want to live have influenced how the kids turned out:

[the now-adult daughters] are remarkable people, something I knew from the start and fought to preserve. I am proud of the fight.

Maybe this article will inspire married folks to talk to a divorce litigator at the proposed destination before they move to a new state?

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3 Comments »

  1. superMike

    January 11, 2018 @ 5:25 pm

    1

    If she didn’t care about the kids, she could have left at any time for her dream Manhattan/Boston life.
    As to her culpability, the article says she was the defendant, right?

  2. philg

    January 11, 2018 @ 5:44 pm

    2

    superMike: True. But on the other hand the article says “We led separate emotional lives. Contemplating my children’s ages in August 2002, I weighed the consequences of staying or going.” I read that to mean that she had planned to divorce the husband, but was waiting for the right time. That’s why I summarized it as “The husband and wife both want to get rid of each other”.

    She says that she was getting only $19,200 per year in tax-free child support initially for kids who are now adults (she’s 57 years old). That’s equivalent to perhaps $45,000 per year pre-tax today? Therefore it is tough to know whether she stayed in Texas because she was so devoted to the kids or because retaining “primary parent” status regarding the kids was her main source of income. Moving to a Greenwich Village studio at $3,000 per month is a financially risky move for a freelance writer.

    Her occupation is “writer,” but if you search for her name it doesn’t seem as though she has written a lot of articles for which big $$ would be paid. An example is

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/01/single_moms_are_better_kids_raised_by_single_mothers_are_sturdier.html

    where she argues that children who have only one parent are better off.

  3. Mememe

    January 11, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

    3

    I am brought to mind of a young Texas bride I met in Princeton some decades ago. The details are not salaciously sordid, but I remember her loneliness in the move to an alien enviroment made to follow her graduate student husband. I also remember she was perfectly, plaintively lovely and she made me want to be married.

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