I am writing because I am very saddened that my five year old step-daughter is being relocated to over 600 miles away where she has lived from birth. Her mother is moving there to be with her current boyfriend/fiance. My husband and I have tried to fight it but $10,000.00 later we have exhausted our resources and it just seems that the custody battle has been too hard on both children (we have a two year old daughter together). There is still a lot of anger towards her mother for taking her away from all she has ever known. My question is: I want the girls to have the closest relationship possible (being eight hours away). Please give me advice as to how to maintain their sibling relationship to the fullest extent. I guess it’s worth noting that we’ll have her for eight weeks every summer, ten days during Christmas, then days in the Spring, and whenever we can drive up to visit on the weekends. I’m afraid the girls (especially the two year old) will be really confused about why they aren’t able to see each other all the time like they were before. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
First, work to improve your adult relationships with your step-daughter’s mother. Any anger that remains will only serve to put stress on the co-parenting relationship and will harm the children. Remember that underlying anger is hurt and love disappointed. The healthier that relationship can be, the better for both children. Second, it sounds like parenting time will be pretty substantial which is a positive. The question becomes what activities can you use to maintain contact during the times that they are apart. I would start by making sure that there are plenty of pictures of both children in each home. I would make sure that these pictures are updated regularly since children change as they grow. I would encourage phone calls regularly (two or three times per week at a minimum). Even if your two year old cannot talk on the phone, just hearing her sister’s voice can help maintain the closeness. In addition, I would encourage both children to send pictures they make regularly and as they get older and are able to write, they can write to each other. Another avenue may be the use of e-mail for speedier delivery if you and your step-daughter’s mother have access to the technology. You may want to contact the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts at www.afccnet.org or by phone at 608-664-3750 since they have many brochures including one titled Moving Away and Long-Distance Parenting that may be helpful for all the adults involved. You might want to work with a local mediator or parenting coordinator to help work out any bumps that come up along the way. You can find a mediator/parenting coordinator at www.mediate.com or www.divorcenet.com.