When couples divorce, one of the first questions that arises is, “Who will get the house?” As this article in the New York Times indicates, however, the question should be, “how close we will live to one another?”
Generally, couples who divorce do not want to live in the same house and in fact may not want to live in the same zip code. However, couples should think about locating their residences in terms of what would be best for the children, and in doing so might find that close proximity would also be best for the parents.
Studies show that when parents work together, attend school and extracurricular activities together, children tend to thrive more. Proximity has so many advantages: the same school district; little travel time between houses that not only reduces travel but takes pressure off the children if they need to go back and get homework or an outfit; same general distance to the children’s friends and family; and cost effectiveness, from reduced fuel bills to fewer duplicates clothes.
Parents who may be reluctant to participate fully in their children’s lives because of potential conflict with the former spouse may feel less reluctant if the children live real close and their friends and activities are a few minutes or less away. Proximity creates an indirect pressure to be present more often, which helps the children feel that both parents are staying fully involved in their lives.
Moving further away from a spouse, while creating a larger buffer, can likely lead to problems. Parents will argue about school districts; travel time for custody exchanges could be lengthy, taking its toll on the children; scheduling extracurricular activities can become tedious and harder for both parents to attend; and on and on and on.
By contrast, proximity also leads to flexibility. If the parents live close to one another, the kids will feel closer to the parents and as the parents adjust to this reality, rigid adherence to schedules will give way to what the children want – one child may need an hour for homework with mom, one child may want dad to help with baseball. If everyone lives close, this neighborhood feel takes the edge off of divorce and separate households. In the end, it helps everyone remember they are still a family.
If you have questions about living close to your ex after divorce, contact us – we can help.