When your child moves in with their other parent

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog article on why I let my daughter move out. She had been hounding me for months, trying to get me to agree that she could move in with her father who lived four hours away. I refused at first. I was the one providing for all my daughter’s needs. I was the one who gave her all my time. I was the one who had consistently been there since the day she was born. How could I let her move in with her father when I had dedicated my whole entire life to being her parent? Plus there was the hassle of switching her school, her doctor, her whole life from Sonoma County… But more than anything, how was I going to be able to let go of the girl who had taught me everything there was about being a mother?

In the end, I let her go. She moved in with her father, went to a new school, made a few new friends, and lived a life that was totally separate from me, her brother, and her stepdad and stepbrother. And at first it was really hard. I cried on the way home from dropping her off for the last time.

But I survived.

I called or texted my daughter almost daily to keep in touch with her. Sometimes she even initiated the conversation. And our household kept going despite the lack of energy from my teenage girl. It was a different house without her, that was for sure. It wasn’t a bad change, it was just different.

I made plans to visit her around her birthday in February, reserving a hotel room just a few blocks away from where her father lived. But before that weekend ever happened, my daughter finally admitted she wanted to come home.

She lasted two months at her dad’s house. The life she thought she was going to live didn’t exist. Before her move, her visits with her dad had been a fun vacation from every day life. But living there was a whole different story. It just wasn’t what she expected. She learned quickly that vacation dad and full-time dad were two totally different people.

I share this story now because since I told about how my daughter moved out, a bunch of other parents have contacted me with their own stories of children wanting to leave one parent to live with the other. Some don’t know if they can let their child do it. Others are already in the process. And every one of them are hurting.

Here are some examples:

Kay: “As I sit here, typing this comment, my daughter is finishing packing. She is 11 1/2 yrs old and today I take her to the airport to live with her Dad a few states away. I want to cry. I hate her Dad right now, even though I know he is a good parent. We get a long and put our differences aside a long time ago in order to put our daughter’s needs first.”

Angie: “As I made cupcakes for my daughters honor ceremony, still it was on my mind. This afternoon as I sat with my daughter, waiting for the principal to call her name for her straight A certificate, I suddenly felt my eyes well up with tears. I have molded my beautiful daughter to what she is today.”

Marie: “I am going through the exact same thing with my 14 year old daughter. I can’t imagine her not being with me on a daily basis but I have to remember whatever is best for her is best for me.”

My message for parents going through this:

1. Your child’s decision to live with their other parent is not a slight against you. And to be able to separate your feelings about your child’s father away from their relationship with their father is huge. Not many divorced people are capable of doing that.

2. You are a good parent for putting your child’s happiness above your own. And even if your child doesn’t recognize this now, there will come a day in the future when they will understand how much you loved them to be able to let them go.

3. No situation is the same. Some situations include a parent who is NOT in a place where they should be caring for a child full time. Some situations will have the child realizing the grass really isn’t greener on the other side. And some situations will have the child truly happy after the move. Please do not make any decisions on your future and your child’s future from one person’s account of letting her child move away. This is not a decision to be made lightly. But it should be a decision made with unselfish love.

And finally…

4. Remain a constant in your child’s life. If you and your child have come to agree that they can move in with their other parent, I want to express how much I feel for you and your situation. Go ahead and mourn. Get in a good cry. But then, understand this is not the end of the world. Even if your child doesn’t live with you, it doesn’t mean you can’t remain close. Contact them via email, phone, text, etc every few days. Send them care packages in the mail. Plan regular visits with them.

Who knows, this change might be the very thing that brings you closer together. 🙂


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16 thoughts on “When your child moves in with their other parent

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am going through this with my soon to be 14 year old daughter and it truly broke my heart when she told me she wanted to move in with her father. At first I said no, but I am starting to accept this now and plan to still be here for her always. Even though this saddens me so much, it really helped to read your story. I know I’m not alone in this. Thank you.

  2. I am living this exact situation in “real-time”. My daughter sprung this idea on me a few weeks ago, without warning and certainly without any responsible conversation initiated by her father. At first, I was wounded to the core and didn’t respond the way I wish I could have. Now, she is working with a therapist to help her with making “this decision” along with some tools to use her voice and advocate for her own needs. In the end, I will relent and have since told her that my love and care for her will not change, even if she leaves my home. I just need to feel more certain that she has all of the information she needs to make this life-changing plan. It is so hard, but reading that other great Moms have experienced this very thing is such a comfort. Thank you.

    1. I am going thru the same thing. DD and ex sprung it on me at drop off after she and I finished vacation. I’m hurt that she could not tell me sooner and that he’s been talking to her about it for months. My ex is narcissistic and very manipulative. I hope my daughter will one day see how much I love her and I’m trying to cope everyday.

      1. Sounds like my ex exactly. He has already had her talking to his lawyer without me knowing. Overnight I have become the enemy in her eyes with his manipulation. I had to drag it out of her because she was afraid to tell me. I told her she could go, but my heart is broken. She just turned 15. He has promised her a new house and all sorts of stuff. He has a new wife with a daughter her age. She’s leaving me, her 3 year old half sister and wonderful step father who loves her dearly to make this change. She’s a straight A honor student. I hope one day she changes her mind. But if not, I’ll just have to remind myself that I’ve done a good job with her. Its her turn to do her. It’s so comforting knowing I’m not alone in this.

  3. I’ve raised my granddaughter sense she was born. She’s 12 & I have always kept the door open for her mom & my son (who are not together) but I know she needs them to be a part of her life. My son is selfish & has never been consistent with spending time with her or even keeping in touch with her. That’s another story for another day. Her mom is a little of the same but has made an effort more the last couple of years. I know every kid wants their parents. But she doesn’t see I’ve been her parent & I guess I’m taking it to personal now sense she asked to live with her mom. I haven’t handled it well. Instead of listening I strike back with a “no & stop asking me.” All I want to do is tell her all the insanity I’ve saved her from & how convenient for her mom to want to be a mom now. But that would only hurt my granddaughter She’s my life. I don’t even know how to give her up even a little. In the beinging I agreed to every other weekend & some days durning the week but now she wants more time with her mom. I guess I need to let her go because she will just hate me if I don’t. We have never been at odds. We were always a team until purity hit this year & now she wants her friends & phone more then air to breath. & now wants to live with her mom. I hate going out like this. The old bitter grandmother. I need to be more at peace about it & work it out. But I’m not there yet. It helped reading others & their personal stories. Thanks for sharing

  4. I have to admit i was more shocked to learn you ultimately let her go. This is my fear everyday and that im in pain every time i think about letting her go, even though she left Christmas eve and i haven’t spoken to her or seen my 14 year old since. My daughter was not happy to share her living space with her 3 cousins whom i have taken in so they did not have to go to foster care. My idea was to teach a life lesson to my daughter that we are family and we help our family when they are in need even if that means making sacrifices that we do not want to make. Well this back fired and she wanted to move to her fathers after her cousins stayed longer than expected, i instantly said no you cannot move out until 18 and when i know she is capable to do so. CFS became involved from outside unhealthy influences and it was revealed my youngest niece wanted to move to my sisters which was mutually agreed and this assessor told my daughter she is to go stay with her dad because i did not sign the family enhancement agreement she presented me that day, i did not say no but asked her to give me time to do some homework and educate myself through legal advice about what this meant but because i took too long to sign she moved forward removing my children. I have been my girl primary caregiver and a single mom her whole life with her dad having little to no involvement only when it was convinient for him as i invited him to dinners, b days, Christmases ect. , if i did not drive her to him he would not have a relationship with his daughter at all. CFS told my daughter she is allowed to move out at 14 and she has say. When my daughter found this out she was angry with me and i was caught in a lie, why wouldn’t i lie about her not being able to move at 18?! My daughter and niece told lies to CFS to get them out of my care and i was in the fight of my life for my other children as i was taking care of 5 ….3 were my sister and 2 were mine. I was heartbroken and angry at the same time. My daughter told me she was not mad at me before CFS interjected themselves in our life and now all of a sudden my daughter fears me, even if my daughter was mad about my fib this is something my daughter and i could have worked out between us. With parent alienation from her father, grandmother, and his girlfriend it didnt take long before i didnt hear from her again. She has a cell phone but has not called or text she even made a facebook for the first time and not only did she not add me she actually removed my friend request but instead adding everyone else on her dads side and many of my friends and family on our side. My daughter has never defied me or went against me and my world is upside down. fast forward 6 months later i did not get a call on mothers day and that broke me i was now getting angry that she can live her life without me as i cannot live without my children, her father took my info off her school making him and his girlfriend he primary caregiver and erased my info completely even though he has no right to do so as no parenting order was filed until i recently filed one. She is graduating grade 9 and i will end up missing her fair well when i have worked hard her whole life to make sure she is in school and never quits while her father only has her in attendance but not doing any work. i received an email stating they cannot even grade her to lack of evidence meaning she handed in no work to be graded. I instilled in my daughter that education is important and my household had al the kids doing chores and learning how to do tasks on their own preparing them for their life on their own possibly so when she goes to her dads its nothing but fun no chores or homework and definitely no mom nagging. My daughter refuses to speak to me and i dont know why. I have went to court and filed a parenting order to bring her back into my care giving her father generous parenting time i have also completed triple p parenting program, domestic violence course, parenting after separation, and a cultural parenting program. Her father has not made any real effort to be in her life or complete not one program and i dont understand how CFS can close the file satisfied calling it a custody issue now leaving me to be in the fight of my life for my child. I dont know why he would do this to me and think its in her best interest to not have her mother the one who raised her while his priorities were not her all these years i dont get how he can do this to me. How can she live without me when i cant live without her.?! This is a nightmare and i cant wake up. If she fights me on this in court and gets it granted that she can stay with her dad then im out of options and hope and have no choice but to grieve my daughter all over again. I dont know how many of you let your daughter go without trying to go to the courts you are way stronger than i am. Im lost and confused without my daughter is it that selfish of me to even try to go to the courts? I dont believe i should be totally blocked from my child over simple problems that we did not have a chance to work out. How is she mad at me when i have never given up on her the whole 14 years of her existence when there was times being a single mom asking her father for help which he did not come help or be there many times or never paid child support…how come she isn’t mad at him for not being there for her but im being punished. My heart hurts everyday and i dont wish this pain on anyone.

  5. Thank you for this, I’m going through this process right now with my 14 year old daughter. I’ve been her sole caregiver for most of her life. After my wife decided she didn’t want to be married to me anymore, we had planned for our daughter to live with her, but she couldn’t find a stable living situation, so I’ve had her with me the last 5 years. It hasn’t been easy but it has been fulfilling and great and she’s thrived here.

    But now she wants to stay with her mother in Utah (we live in California) where she’s visiting over the Summer. And I’ve been an emotional wreck since she told me a couple days ago. I’m desperately trying to see the good in this and not get bogged down in the emotion, but it’s so hard right now. I’m feeling very very alone (I’m not remarried, in fact LEGALLY we’re not even divorced).

    Your words mean so much to me right now. Even if she does go through with it, I’m pretty sure she’ll change her mind before the year is over. As you said, vacation Mom is not the same as full-time Mom, and boy once school starts she’s going to be in for a big surprise since Mom cares much more about that stuff than I do.

    Still, I’m trying to navigate the future as best I can, but it just hurts so much right now. My rational mind knows that it’s not a slight against me, that I’ve been the best parent I can be for the last several years and now it’s time for me to have a real single life for a change (my ex started dating the moment we separated).

    The future isn’t written yet though, so perhaps it’s all for naught. Perhaps she will stay there permanently and thrive. Five years ago I couldn’t see the future either, don’t know why I think I can now.

    1. I am so sorry you are going through this. Everything about your situation feels hard, and I can see how much you love and care for your daughter, and how torn you are as she seeks out the parts of her that are unfamiliar. I will keep you both in my thoughts as you navigate this rough road.

      1. Thank you for the kind words. Just knowing that letting go isn’t forever has been a huge relief. I’m fairly confident given a few more weeks she’ll change her mind. She hasn’t spent more that 4 weeks with her mother in over 5 years.

  6. My 15 year old just told me this I don’t even know how to process this. I feel like I’m dying atm. I hope this gets better

  7. I had no idea this was a thing until this passed weekend. I’m devastated. I’ve cried and cried. My daughter hasn’t been 15 for a full month yet and I noticed she was acting strangely. I blocked this passed weekend to spend some quality time with her and after some effort, I was able to drag it out of her. She wants to go live with her dad. Ugh! I felt like I’d been hit in the head with a bat and wanted to throw up at the same time. Once that was out, I found out she had even told his lawyer this and they were scheduling a court date so he can take over custody. What? How did I not see this coming? Her father and I divorced in 2013. I remarried in 2017 to a great man and now have a 3 year old daughter with my new husband. Life has been blissful. We live in a beautiful new home and have all of the luxury’s life can offer. Her dad visits every other weekend and has since she was six. Plus holidays and weeks in the summer. She is and always has been a straight A student taking honors and AP classes. She’s always been so sweet and caring until this past month or so. I noticed a change in her but couldn’t put my finger on it. I feel sick that she didn’t feel like she could come to me. When she told me, I said “honey, you can go if you want to go, I’m not going to stop you if this is what you want” I told her I didn’t want her to go but ultimately she’s old enough to decide. There’s really no point in paying lawyers thousands of dollars for her to still decide to go anyway. Her dad recently remarried in December and she moved in with her teenage daughter. So things are really fun and exciting, way better than a 3 year old sister. He has promised her a bigger house if she moves with him and a better school. He even convinced her that it’s safer for her to drive over there. (He lives an hour and a half away) My heart feels shattered. I can’t eat, sleep and weight is falling off of me. What really hurts is he’s manipulated her into believing I’ve wronged her. We’ve always been so close. She won’t even look at me right now. She’s set to leave Thanksgiving weekend. The pain is very real. I feel for all of us going through it. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that “normal” people go through this. I have no idea how this will all play out, but I do know I’ll welcome her back with open arms if she ever wants to come home.

    1. I am so sorry you’re going through this. None of us can tell the future, so I can’t promise you it will all get better. We can only hope. Just keep showing up for her, be supportive, be that safe place she can always come home to. You’re obviously a good mom with so much love in your heart. She’s lucky to have you.
      P.S. My daughter moved back home only a few months later because her blinders came off and real life set in – and real life at her dad’s house was not as great as vacation dad’s house. So, who knows?

  8. My step daughter wants to live with us and has claimed her mom is mentally and emotionally abusive for well over a year now. She has sent us text asking us to get her out of the house , to call the cops. As we live a few hours away. She sent us a recording of her being cussed at called names threatened but dhs and the cops in that town know the family well and she seems to talk her way out of everything. As we never returned her after Christmas visitation we are in contempt of court. She’s doing well in school here not getting in trouble and has friends it was the total opposite at her old school. She respectful towards us and don’t even try to talk to us like she does to her mom she dont even act like she does up there she’s a whole different child. Her mom blames us tells us we need to make her behave up there. We tell her not to act like that she should act like she does at our house. But it don’t happen. Anyway court was yesterday we have to return her today and not see her for 3 months. She has to go back to her old school and she is devastated. As we sure don’t have the money for a laywer again. It’s totally ran us dry. All the mother cares about is the court order and the papers. Wont listen to the child. Always blames us. If anyone has any suggestions please because we are at a lose here and scare what she might do if we get her home.

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