New Evidence and Legal Considerations
Sanford 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, children are, on average, more likely to move than are adults. Between March 1997 and March 1998, 23.5% of all children 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.
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