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.

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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  1. Kelly Knapp

    Thank you so much for your articles. I read them and I think I would never want to put my story on the internet. It just struck me how much reading your story and people’s comments have helped me though so here goes… My ex and I had an amicable divorce 7 years ago and were very flexible with parenting and communicating with each other. He got re-married about 4 years ago and I’m not allowed to talk to him unless it goes through his wife. My ex husband and his wife are very religious and have very narrow views on everything. I feel like there is a lot of coercion and manipulation of my children going on. My 17 y/o son has been unhappy for a few years and I have tried to allow him to handle things himself. I have even had to tell him that he can’t come home and complain to me because I can’t “fix” anything, it’s up to him to fix it. I wound up filing a petition to modify our schedule because his dad told him that if I would like my 13 y/o daughter live with them full time, they would let him live with me full time. I filed the petition for my son to have an open custody schedule and my daughter to have a 50/50 schedule with me. After a horrible court hearing this last summer that is exactly what the judge ordered. I should also say that I was recently remarried so that has affected things as well. My son is much happier and willingly sees his dad and goes to church with them once a week. Unfortunately my daughters relationship with me really suffered due to this. They brought her to court to testify against me. She didn’t really say anything negative against me and the judge actually admonished them for bringing her into court. The judge also felt that her dad and step sister were influencing her. Anyway I wanted to let things settle down before I brought anything up with her about last summer. I was amazed that we settled right back into our regular schedule (school helped) and our relationship seemed like it was right back to what it was. I have tried to be very flexible and respectful of her going to church and youth group at their church. I recently tried to talk to her about this again and I was surprised that she said she wasn’t happy at my house when everything has been so normal. My reasons for following through on the court proceeding rather than just allowing her to live over there full time is because of their lack of flexibility. They told the judge that they felt I should only have what amounted to an average of 17 hours per week of visitation. Now that we have a schedule in writing (and my daughter’s recent comments to me), I feel like if she did move over there on a full time basis I could still be able to move her back if she decided she wanted to. With all of that back ground, I feel like the pros of allowing her to move in with her dad are: 1), teen girls who have a strong relationship with their father’s do better in life, 2) I understand her wanting to have a closer relationship with her step sister. My cons are: 1) their religious views are to narrow minded and restrictive, 2) I feel like they are still trying to push me out of her life. I feel better having written this down, but any feed back from you would be appreciated.

    October 27th, 2013 3:27 pm

  2. Dave Weidlich

    Thanks for this article. So sad that a 12 year old has to make such momentous decisions. Studies have shown that children do best when they have significant time with both their parents and when parents make the parenting decisions such as where to live. Of course parents going through divorce often cannot make parenting decisions such as where a child should live and how both parents can be involved in the child’s life. That’s why there’s divorce.

    Helping our kids with their parents’ divorce is one of the topics of the group we host for those seeking help and hope after divorce or separation. We are starting up DivorceCare Jan. 20 – Apr 13, 2014 in Petaluma – Sonoma County, CA. Tremendously helpful for those who went through our first session, so we’re doing it again. More here:
    Pastor Dave Weidlich

    January 17th, 2014 1:08 pm

  3. adriana

    I’m going through this right now. It is one of the hardest things I’ve done. I have a 12 year old daughter and a 14 year old son. It’s one thing when your daughter says she doesn’t want to clean her rt but it’s another when your son says that you have raised him for 14 yes and have done a good job now it’s dad’s turn. My whole life has revolved around my children. Now what do I do? I love them more then my own needs so with a heavy heart we are signing paper work this week. Thank you for your article. I needed to read it.

    July 29th, 2014 1:00 pm

  4. nicole

    Im am currently negotiating with my ex to agree to my 13yr old son returning to the other side of Australia to live with his dad and his 16yr old brother. My son is hanging out with some badly behaved kids at school and has recently been recieving harsher and harsher consequences at school. Which is responding to with worse attitude than ever.l am very concerned that he will continue getting worse.
    He has just returned from 9 nights with his dad. Has a much better attitude at home. And has plugged into drawing. ..church and youth group whilst on hoilday. However he is withdrawn..sad…and very homesick. I am negotiating with his father to agree yo sending him bavk on a trial basis for the rest of the year. To see how he goes living there. His school behavior and if he is happier there.
    It will be heart breaking for me. However. .if my son is happier there…then its best for him.
    I think that he needs his dads guildance at he moment.
    The male role modeling and to get back to his old school and friends. .church and youth group.
    So heart breaking and sad for me :(

    October 2nd, 2014 6:53 am

  5. marallen

    I’m so glad I’m not alone. My husband walked out 7yrs ago after having an affair and recently remarried the woman he left me for.
    It was a very bitter separation and divorce and our 2 children went every second weekend from fri-sun. After a year they chose not to go back as they hated it. My ex was sleeping in til 2 pm and the (young at the time) kids had to fend for themselves or being given to other relatives or neighbours to be looked after. There was no contact from him for almost 5 years then all of a sudden he messaged my daughter over social networks. He never had time for our son but had always had a close bond with our daughter. She secretly text him for months and then our of the blue told me she wanted to move in with them. Within a week she had packed and moved 2 hours away. I found a notebook which she had wrote in stating all the things he had promised. Going to his fiancés hen party, being a bridesmaid, going on fancy holidays, an ipad and an iPhone… some things I just couldn’t afford to lavish on her. Whenever I tried to ask her why all i got was a broken record “it’s my decision, I’ve made up my mind” she’s made new friends but she’s left on her own a lot with them workin, they also lack responsibility which worries me, but trying to talk to my ex is pointless as he will do the opposite of what i suggest to spite me. I’ve asked my daughter countless times to come home but she refuses and now has admitted she cuts herself when we argue over it. Seemingly her father knows this but didn’t tell me about it or seek help. I feel to blame somehow even though I’ve done everything I could for her and gave her all my love and time. At the same time i feel angry. I can’t discuss it with her without her getting furious. I don’t think my questions will ever be answered. It saddens us all greatly and I feel like a failure as a parent.

    October 7th, 2014 6:14 am

  6. Shannon

    This article hits home & was exactly what I needed to hear. My ex and I have shared joint physical custody of our three kids, ages 10, 11 and 15, for the past five years, a week with me then a week with their dad. This summer their dad upped & moved back to Oklahoma where we were originally from. All 3 of my kids wanted to move back with him. At first I said no because they have more opportunity in the town we live in. But I knew that there was only way for them to find out if they really did want to live there. So they’ve lived with their dad for the last few months. I quit my job and attempted to relocate back to Oklahoma as well so I could continue seeing the kids as we had before. However, once I got down there, I realized that I was miserable in that town I was so glad to get away from years ago and that misery was being projected onto my kids. The kids love living in Oklahoma in that small country town. I’ve decided to stay in Joplin and see them every other weekend and then during the summer. I’ve struggled with this decision, feeling like I’m a bad mom for agreeing to my kids moving away from me. However, I know that i can offer them more, not only being able to provide for them better, but also emotionally. I’m happy in Joplin. My kids are happy with things. And if they ever decide to come back to live with me, they have that freedom. In the meantime, I look at the bright side. Although I’ll be missing out, I’ll also gain more quality time with them doing fun stuff with them that I didn’t get to do before. Ultimately, I just want my kids to be happy. I’ve talked to them alot about this situation, and they are completely happy wtih it. So that makes me happy. They’re doing great in school, have made alot of friends and are enjoying country life. When they’re with me, they already have friends in Joplin, get to have fun in a town that offers things that they don’t get to do in a small country town. It all seems to be working out.

    October 7th, 2015 1:02 pm

  7. Kendra Daniels

    Going through this right now. My 14 yr old son was found with a marijuana pipe at school and suspend for three days. After sitting down with him and laying down the rules about drugs and that we have zero tolerance in our home, he chose to try his hand at smoking weed. The consequences for his actions are that he will now be living with his dad and going to another school. I feel stressed, anxious, and panicked. I have been his sole provider for the last 11 years. I don’t know what hurts more, the actual drug use or the fact that he is so flippant with his behavior and his response regarding this matter.

    October 14th, 2015 2:29 pm

  8. Lisa

    OMG, I am going through this right now. My 12 yr old son, will be 13 in Feb. He has asked numerous of times if he could live with his dad. Of course I said no,and my reason is because first he is my everything. He’s my only child and his dad and I was never married. We separated when our son was about a year old, we never lived together with the child. I am married,been with my husband since 2007,and married since 2013. My son’s has been taking me back and forth to court since 2007. He does not have our sons best interest, I can say that he loves his son but he is more focused on doing things to hurt me and even manipulate our son to dislike his step dad. I’m torn because I feel like if I let my son go with his dad, I’m a bad mother. There is nothing in this world that I want more for my son than for him to be happy. I’m struggling with this because I’m afraid that something terrible will happen to him. He will be in Baltimore,Md. And I don’t feel it’s a safe place .I was born and raised there but moved to Va. after I married. My son was happy and excited but that changed and he wants to move to Baltimore. I want to do the right thing,so I’m torn between giving him what he wants and making him happy or not letting him go becaus I feel it’s not in his best interest. Kids need boundaries and rules, and that what he has here with me, I do know and can say he has no rules there,no structure. It’s all about play. I just don’t know what to do,I’m heartbroken.

    November 5th, 2015 10:01 am

  9. Kelly

    My 16 year old daughter moved out tonight to live with her dad and my heart is breaking. The last post I read on here was from a lady who mentioned her son using drugs and having such a flippant attitude about it – I felt like that was me writing that post – very similar situation here. What happened to my baby girl? I have spent my life dedicated to her – too much so, I think. So it’s hard not to take it personal and wonder why, what went wrong, what could have been done differently, will she be ok? I know it’s for the best right now, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

    February 19th, 2016 9:27 pm

  10. Crissi Langwell

    I’m so sorry, Kelly. I know how hard this is. The teen years are incredibly hard. This is an age when kids are seeking more independence. Living at the other parent’s home is akin to them moving out of their regular home. She may just be trying out what it’s like to live somewhere else. This might just be temporary, or it could be permanent. The best thing you can do now, as I’m sure you know, is to continue keeping up with her regularly. Take her out to lunch. Call and text her at least every few days. Let her have her space, but make it clear you’re still a big part of her life. This may even strengthen your relationship with her. I wish you the best of luck, and lots of virtual hugs.

    February 23rd, 2016 10:28 am

  11. Jessica

    My 16 year old daughter moved out and in with her father a few weeks ago.
    Leading up to her leaving, her attitude towards me changed. She was rude, ignored most everything I said, very distant……..not herself at all. I tried to talk to her about it a few times and all she said was that she was sorry, and that she didn’t realize she had a bad attitude towards me.
    We had an argument which is when she told me that she wanted to live with her dad. She said at first that I was to hard on her, then said it wasn’t as much about me as it was she just wanted to live with him for the remainder of her Jr year of high school and her Sr year as well, that I have had her and her sister since their father and I divorced 5 years ago and I’ve had my time with her.
    A month before this all took place my daughter didn’t want to go visit her dad for even one night, said he never spent time with them while they were there, but now she wants to live with him……..I don’t understand that.
    Her attitude towards me still isn’t great. She wont talk to me, doesn’t want to spend any time with me. She agreed to come stay with me on Wednesday and Saturdays but is not wanting to now…….. just said she wants to stay at home(at her dads).
    I don’t know how to deal with all of this. I am also worried about my 14 year old daughter who has been hurt by her sister. I don’t know what to do to make this any easier for her either……..I am at a loss.

    April 16th, 2016 4:53 am

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