“Should I Move My Daughter Away From Her Father?”

Dad and daughter

My husband, “Lance,” and I have a 16-month-old daughter, and, since she was born, our marriage has been strained. From my perspective, he doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with being a husband and father. He is unreliable and a liar. He has his own interest at heart at all times. If something requires sacrifice on his part, he won’t do it. Recently, he moved out and says he wants a divorce. We’ll have to sell the home we own since neither of us can afford it on our own, and I don’t know whether I should stay in the town where we currently live or move closer to my family.

Currently, we live two hours from family. I have been working part-time and going to graduate school. I will now have to find full-time employment and possibly put school on an indefinite hold. It’s important to me that my daughter have a strong relationship with her father, and I know that moving two hours away would fundamentally change their relationship. The custody arrangement would be every other weekend with some extended time for holidays and summer. I’m worried that if it’s too much time or trouble for my ex to see our daughter, he will eventually not exercise his custody time regularly. However, if I move in with family, I would have much needed help on a day-to-day basis and would also be able to save money and continue school.

So far, I have not been able to depend on Lance for financial/child support. He is already claiming that he doesn’t see why I would need money from him, so I am not optimistic he will pay timely. I do have an amazing network of close friends in my current town, and I like my job. I could transition to a full-time roll with my current employer. However, I would be living paycheck to paycheck. My ex wants me to stay because it would “save him money.”

So should I sacrifice my financial security and comfort in the hopes my daughter can have a better relationship with her father? Or, should I uproot our lives and start over closer to family? I know that, no matter what, the implications for her coming from a broken home are long-term and far-reaching. I just want to do what is best. I value your advice, and I know you always advocate in the best interest of the child. — Wants What’s Best for Daughter

If I were in your position, I’d probably be very tempted to move closer to family. Not only will your family love and support you (on a day-to-day basis), but they will also extend the same love and support to your daughter. There is no guarantee that, if you stay put, Lance will give your daughter the time of day, let alone the child support you’ll likely need to make ends meet. A father who thinks it’s too much time and trouble to drive an hour or two to see his daughter (if he does think that) probably isn’t a father who will be ever present for the daily needs of his child. Sure, your daughter may get some crumbs of attention from him — and maybe a few more than she might if she lived farther away. But at what cost? She’ll see extended family a lot less, she’ll see you less (because you will, theoretically, have to work more to make money to support the two of you), and she’ll probably feel the disappointment more to have a dad who doesn’t have distance to blame for not prioritizing her. (If you move and you’re right that he doesn’t make much effort to see her, it will be easier for her, as she grows up, to blame their strained relationship on distance rather than the idea that her dad’s a douche and/or that he doesn’t care about her. Related, and also something to think about: It will also be easier for her to blame you for taking her away from her dad, though that certainly isn’t a given.)

One thing to keep in mind that might help ease your anxiety is that no decision you make right now has to be permanent. Maybe you decide to rent an apartment locally, transition to a full-time position with your company, put school on hold, and see how that goes for six to twelve months. Does Lance step in and take a satisfactory co-parenting role? Is he exercising his custody rights and helping with child support? Is your daughter’s relationship with him developing well? If none of those things is happening, you can move to your family with a clear conscience, knowing that, even when Lance had the chance to make things work with his daughter close by, he made no effort.

Conversely, if you move to your family right away to get support while you get on your feet post-divorce, you can still decide to move closer to your daughter’s husband later if it seems then that their relationship would truly benefit from closer proximity. No decision has to be forever.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Keep in mind that, regardless of where you live, a divorce agreement will specify custody and child support (if required, which it sounds like it should be), and that you have the right (and, in fact, the duty to your daughter) to hold him to at least the financial support. Document, document, document – if he misses a visit, if he’s late to a visit, etc. You should also try to have his child support payments be a direct-deposit to an account that you specify, from his paycheck.

  2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    “It’s important to me that my daughter have a strong relationship with her father,”
    That is a great sentiment to have but he must have it also or she won’t have the strong relationship you desire. Does his family live near your family? If so maybe she could visit them on his weekends so that she would have the strong support of both families even if her dad didn’t bother to show up.
    “He is already claiming that he doesn’t see why I would need money from him,” These are the words of someone who isn’t thinking about his child at all. If he was he wouldn’t be saying you don’t need the money he would be saying his daughter doesn’t need the money. She isn’t in his thoughts.
    ‘My ex wants me to stay because it would “save him money.” ‘ The words of someone who only thinks of himself. None of his comments show any consideration for the needs of his daughter or for providing the best situation possible for her.
    In this situation I think you would be much better off moving closer to your family. This would provide you with much needed support and provide more loving people in your daughter’s life. If her dad’s family lives in that area she can also have a good relationship with them. Finishing your education so that you can get a higher paying job so that you can support both yourself and you daughter without having to live paycheck to paycheck is important. Giving up your financial security for a relationship that doesn’t appear to exist between father and daughter is giving up your financial security for nothing.

  3. Wendy has such great advice LW. No decision has to be forever. I suggest moving to family for support and finishing school. When you’re done with school and when she’s school age you can consider moving back to the town where Lance lives since by then you’ll probably be needing less help from your family. Also obviously get that child support from him, even if it needs to be garnished from his check no matter where you decide to live.

  4. LW, it sounds like what you wanted was a real husband, and what you want for your daughter is a real father. Unfortunately, this guy has made it clear he has no interest in being either. He’s already proved he’s not the husband you wanted for yourself, and he’s not going to be the father you want for your daughter.
    My wish for you is that you can reframe your desires. Right now, you’re thinking about contorting yourself into doing things that are not the best for you, in the hope that will provide a real dad for your daughter. But, LW, she doesn’t have one. And sadly, at least with her bio dad, she almost certainly never will.
    I’m so sorry.

  5. dinoceros says:

    I also agree that it might be good to find a solution for right now and then re-evaluate. Life with a 16-month-old is very different from life with a school-age child. Your finances will likely change. And you will be more acclimated to life as a single mother. It’s OK to seek out support from your family now, and then possibly move to give your daughter more time with her father.
    I also don’t think that you should be taking on all the burden of her relationship with him. I get wanting to make it easier on him so that it’s more likely to happen. But if he chooses not to participate as a parent, it’s not going to be solely because of the distance. I think that the difference in his participation will be minimal because a person who doesn’t care isn’t going to suddenly start caring just because it’s easy for him. And please hold him to the child support.

  6. I think Wendy is spot on with the fact that nothing has to be forever. Putting your daughter first in this instance might mean for right now moving her away while you finish school. While two hours isn’t short, it’s definitely doable. Especially if you have support from other family is getting her to see her father. If the money involved in driving to see her and distance is an issue, it may be worth it to drive her to him every other weekend if it means more financial and personal security on a daily basis.

  7. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    if it were me, I’d move closer to family. 2 hours is not that much, if he wants to see his daughter he will. my husband’s first wife moved 8 hours away, and we still made it work. my other step kids live 6 hours away, we still see them 3-4 times a year. if he wants it to work, it will work.

  8. The idea that parents have rights to see their children and have a say in their upbringing should be balanced with the idea that those same parents have a duty to love and support their children. He has to earn any consideration from you and so far, i don’t see anything indicating his concern for his daughter. Paying his bills is the minimum, and wouldn’t earn him any real credit personally. But he doesn’t even do that, and in fact complains about money he hasn’t paid yet. He is a douchebag. So move, do whatever benefits your daughter and you. The question you need to ask yourself is why you chose to reproduce with a douche.

    1. Dude! Not cool. The husband’s failings as a parent are not on the wife!

      1. I don’t think Diablo is saying that. What I think he’s saying is that the LW needs to figure out why she chose this man over any other to marry and have a child with. Because she did choose him. Understanding why that happened is a huge step towards making a better choice in the future. We should all ask ourselves why when we make poor choices. And we all do at some time or another. She’s not at fault, she just needs to understand why this happened so it won’t happen again.

      2. dinoceros says:

        Yeah, people don’t typically become jerks out of the blue. Like they’re a totally kind, responsible person and then suddenly one day, they stop taking responsibility or caring about others. As we see on this site, plenty of people don’t reflect on these kind of things and then end up in the same situation a second time.

      3. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        I once heard a saying, “men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” I find this to be true especially if marry before you really know your self and what you want out of life.
        If you don’t understand that douchey thing that he does is really deal breaker then you keep ending up in broken relationships, and are always shocked that it didn’t work out.

      4. With respect, CJ, because I usually agree with your comments, I don’t like this saying. Apart from way overgeneralizing both men and women, i think real marriages are ones in which people realize that change is inevitable and adapt to it, learn how to change together. Some things about people may not change, but for the most part everyone HAS to change. Some of my 50 year old friends who have remained essentially the same as they were when we were all 25 are the saddest dudes I know. Life has passed them by while they were sticking to their guns, and now they look kinda ridiculous compared to people who have grown and moved through phases of life. They are like 50 yo teenagers, still going to the bar every Friday night with their paychecks. Change happens. You either happen to it, or it happens to you. It’s everyone’s choice.

      5. Agreed. This dude is obviously an asshat. Who agrees to have a child and then wants zero responsibility for said child? He doesn’t even want to give her child support! WTF?!?
        Self reflection is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite good and beneficial. The LW now has another human to care for so I think it is worth noting that she should figure out why she picked this man so she’s not in the same situation.
        LW, FWIW, I would move close to family if I were in your situation. Especially if they want you to move and have said they’d help. You don’t need to do this on your own. This guy isn’t trustworthy, so I don’t think you should count on him to help. If your family wants to, let them. The more people who are present and love your daughter, the better off she’ll be. Even if those people aren’t the biological father.

    2. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      Diablo, Im with you too. The main point I got out of reading the LW’s letter is that she married and reproduced with a guy she describes as a liar, unreliable, and always putting himself first, yet is worried about giving him more opportunity to magically turn into a totally different person (which he has not done in the 16 months of the kid’s life and presumably the entirety of the marriage before that…and when they dated). LW needs to face facts that she needs to deal with the situation AS IS, not an idealized version of reality.
      Seriously, LW- the fact that you appear to be seriously considering the alleged “stigma” your kid is going to “suffer” from being from a “broken home” is probably a WHOLE lot less than the actual effect of being forced to have a relationship with her narcissictic/plain d*ckhead father and some resulting abandonment issues thrown in. For real.
      Yes to child support, and if you go through the state, it will be garnished from his paycheck, especially if you have to go on any state aid of any kind. DO NOT let him trick you into coming to an agreement outside of court, or that for some reason it shouldnt come out of his check. (This is NOT legal advice.)

    3. I don’t think that’s fair – some people can be great partners, but terrible parents. Its one thing to have a partnership, to have free time and flexibility and the freedom to go out to bars or to a concert or whatever and get to sleep in the next morning. Some people can’t handle the sacrifices that having a child demands. Sacrifices of time, money, energy, sleep, all of it. That doesn’t mean that it’s the partner’s fault for not identifying these faults before getting married and having a child. Sometimes you can’t look ahead and see that a person will be unable to step up and make those necessary sacrifices.

      1. The fact that something might not be “your fault” exactly doesn’t in any way excuse you from the hard work of taking a look at yourself and figuring out how you came to be in a situation, such that when the child is only 16 months old, you now know that your partner is a liar and a cheapskate who has reneged on the most basic responsibilities. If you don’t ask yourself how this happened, you are likely doomed to repeat unhealthy patterns, and at some point, that does become your responsibility if not your fault. I’m not judging the LW harshly here, but everyone has to examine their errors and try to make better decisions in the future. That’s constructive advice.

      2. Jessibel5 says:

        This comment made me think of a guy who I was friends with years ago. He was a wild, crazy, party animal. Then he met this girl and fell in love and completely mellowed out and matured, and married her. We were all SHOCKED at his transformation, but were happy he seemed so happy. He was totally into being married, having dogs, buying a condo, etc. Talked about how excited he was to have kids with her.

        Then she got pregnant and it was like a switch flipped from “off” to “on” and he went right back to being the crazy party animal guy. Left her at home almost every night to go out drinking and get drunk and cheat on her while she was pregnant. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen, because he really did make everyone think he had changed, that he wanted the baby SO MUCH. I think the last thing I would have told her was to take a look at herself to see why she chose him. She really, truly thought she was choosing a life partner who was going to be great because he did totally act like a mature adult.

        She could have written this letter four years ago. A few months after the baby was born she sent me a message because I had seen him at a party and asked me if he hooked up with anyone that night. Apparently she had told him she was thinking about moving 1500 miles away to be back with her family to get the support she needed. In an attempt to get her to stay, he was trying to “make things work” and re-court her. She, rightfully, didn’t trust that his intentions were true. My response was something like “I didn’t see anything that evening, but I wasn’t with him all night so I can’t tell you either way.” I mean, I didn’t see anything, but the guy was definitely DTF with anyone he could that night so I didn’t want what I wrote to sway her decision in any way. I wanted to tell her to run for the hills and that he was a dipshit, but instead told her that I was uncomfortable getting involved at all, but that she needed to make the best decision she could for herself and the baby, that she needed to do what she thought was the best course of action and she couldn’t depend on anyone else making the decision for her. I felt so, so mean saying that to her, like I wasn’t helping her at all. Her response was that she already knew what she had to do.

        She moved 1500 miles back home, got a great job, had great support from her family, and is thriving now and has a great, great relationship with her daughter. Earlier this year, he apparently did some soul searching and decided that he had been a schmuck and moved to her area so he could be closer to his daughter and be involved in her life. They are in no way, shape or form getting back together, but they are now co-parenting and he’s paying child support.

        But seriously, it still scares me the ease with which he pulled the wool over her eyes while they were married. He had EVERYONE convinced that he had changed, to the point where I think he was even lying to himself.

      3. Yes, exactly. And I don’t think it is kind or fair to put the burden on the wife to ask herself why she made a “bad decision” with him. He made everyone think that he had grown up, matured, and was exactly who he said he was.

      4. dinoceros says:

        I just don’t really see that as the issue here. Even if someone isn’t a natural parent, they learn to become one if they are a responsible human being. Parenting is less about natural ability and talent and about fulfilling your duty as the caretaker of a child. Choosing to perhaps watch your child instead of go to a bar or a movie or whatever isn’t something out of one’s control. You make a choice. And I don’t know of many situations where someone does something supremely douchey and everyone is shocked by it. Typically, one’s values underpin actions like this.

  9. shakeourtree says:

    I think you should see an attorney ASAP. If you can’t trust him to pay child support, then you need a formal agreement that can be enforced against him. If he’s going to take such little responsibility for the day-to-day care of his child, then he should be contributing more financially, end of story. Paying child support is not optional. I don’t know the particulars of your situation or your state, but you might also have a good case for spousal support, at least temporarily. If he supported you financially before your separation and was in on your decision to go to graduate school, then he doesn’t get to flip the script now just because. Your education goes to your earning potential and has long-term ramifications for your and your daughter’s financial future.
    Unfortunately, you can’t make your ex want to be a good father. You can, however, do what it takes to make sure you have the resources–financially and otherwise–to care for her. And maybe that does mean moving to be near your family, but I still don’t think you should let your ex off the hook so easily. Of course, as an attorney who works in this area, my advice is probably always going to be to see an attorney. But your decision to stay or move or to push or not push him on child support or whatever–it’s not going to make him suddenly decide to be a present and loving father if he doesn’t otherwise want that. So don’t put that on yourself; that’s on him.

    1. I definitely agree – see an attorney and get your ducks in a row. If you’re worried about him paying child support in a timely manner, you can actually get a judgement against him. If he still doesn’t pay, many states allow child support to be pulled directly from his paycheck, so he has no option to not make the payment.

  10. If your husband wants to be a good father and is willing to put in the effort, 2 hours isn’t much. After my parents split up, my mom moved out of state, and my dad and I were separated by a 2 hour drive. I saw my dad very frequently, usually every third weekend, and we had a week in the summer and a week at Christmas break, plus other random holidays and visits. We are very close, and I actually live closer to him now than to my mom. Our relationship is solid because my dad put in 1000% percent effort to see me and make time for us to do things together. Distance will always have some sort of impact, but it doesn’t meant there can’t be a strong relationship built regardless of it.

    As others have mentioned, you need to see a lawyer ASAP. Depending on what the divorce and custody laws are in your state, you have to prepared that a custody arrangement may be put into place that isn’t necessarily everything you want, and on the flip side, your husband may not take advantage of every minute he is legally given to be with your daughter. That isn’t going to change if you move away. If he wants to be in her life, he will do it whether you live in the same town or 2 hours away.

  11. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    I love this part of Wendy’s advice: no decision you make right now has to be permanent. If you stick around town a little bit to see how things play out, you can always move closer to home later, and vice versa. From what you’ve said, I personally would probably move closer to home now. It sounds like you could use the support, which, like Wendy said, will be great for your daughter, too. But be sure that’s OK with any custody arrangements in place, etc. and to the extent you can get your soon-to-be ex-husband’s ok, I’d get it, in writing. In case he tries to accuse you of taking the child away from him. I’m not sure how courts view moving kids away before the custody agreement gets solidified. Talk to a family lawyer now. You don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize your custody later.

  12. findingtheearth says:

    As a single mom, I send you hugs and hugs. It’s a tough gig. My daughters father is not involved and we live in the same community. Proximity does not equal visitation. As a mom, your priority is to your daughter and to your own well-being. If it is in her best interest for you to reside with your family, then that is in her best interest. I do echo the idea to apply for child support through your state. You can collect while going through the divorce proceedings as well.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Good point about proximity not equaling visitation. Even if he were to see her more often, it would still probably be infrequent enough to be noticeable. Or he’d flake out a lot. Or clearly be not interested (like he’ll see her one weekend, but not be willing to go show up to her soccer game). You can’t force someone to care, and their lack of caring is going to show through even the best efforts.

  13. wobster109 says:

    It takes two to have a strong father-daughter relationship: the eager daughter and the caring father. Unfortunately no amount of wanting on your part can make up for the lack-of-caring on his.
    Lance’s DNA does not make him automatically better for a baby child. Time with him does not outweigh time with other loving, caring relatives. Personally I wouldn’t trade a strong relationship with two grandparents for a flimsy one with someone who doesn’t care if he sees his own daughter.

  14. Like what Blink14 said, my parents divorced and my dad drove the 2 hours both ways, every other weekend, holidays and summers to come and get me. It was great time well spent, I even looked forward to the drives, just us in the car together. I miss those times. You can’t force his involvement in seeing his daughter, you have to put her and you first and I do believe that’s you moving back closer to friends and family like my mom did.

    1. the car rides were such a time to bond!

      1. Yes they were…i cherish those times and memories

  15. I think you should see a lawyer and move back home. It sounds like this guy is going to give you a ton of grief if you are in the same town. I don’t agree with Wendy’s comment that whichever choice you make is easily changeable. If you choose to stay in town, you could very well find yourself saddled with a divorce agreement which prohibits your maintaining custody of your daughter if you move 2 hours away from where you and your husband are now living, especially if 2 hours away is in another state. I know a woman who was trapped like this. This is one of the things you should discuss with your lawyer, along with child support and division of property and how to finish the divorce quickly.

  16. “I know that, no matter what, the implications for her coming from a broken home are long-term and far-reaching.”

    Everyone else has given great advice on the practical steps, but I just wanted to address this statement. Now, I’m not saying that children never experience any consequences from divorce, but I think you are WAY off base with your ideas about “long-term and far-reaching” deleterious effects of a “broken home” on your child. First of all, your child is 16 months old. She’s not going remember a time when you and your spouse were married, so it’s not like the divorce itself or even any moves you make over the next few years are going to have a deep or trasumatic impact on her psyche; she won’t even remember them. Hopefully, by the time she IS old enough to start remembering her life situation in a way she can recall in the future, you will have long since finished school and settled into a job/family support/location/custodial arrangements situation that is happy and healthy for both you and her. Second, she’s a lot better off in a happy single parent home than in a tow-parent home full of lies, fighting, apathy toward her, and selfishness. If her dad is a douche and not interested in a relationship with her, her seeing him less often is actually going to be better for her. It speaks well of you that you want her to have a relationship with her dad, and it’s worth a try, but if he won’t at least meet you halfway or even, you know, learn to care about her, don’t force it.

    1. Damn it, didn’t we used to be able to edit these comments? Please excuse the myriad typos. 😛

    2. Yea that comment kind of threw me off too. Regardless if she stays in the same town as her husband or moves away, its up to him to step up to the plate here.

    3. My parents divorced when I was four and my brother was two. They probably shouldn’t have ever gotten married in the first place. My dad was an alcoholic and they fought constantly, and it was scary. My mom always says, “You had a broken home, but I FIXED it.”

    4. I agree. Children who are surrounded by love thrive. I’ve had close-up experience watching a friend’s kids grow up after a divorce, and mom was either not present at times, or the situation in mom’s home was sometimes not good or happy or safe. But their dad and their extended family were close by, and were ALWAYS there for them, loving and supportive. They grew up into remarkable young adults, happy and well-adjusted, and are now in their own loving, healthy marriages. They’re a joy to know.

      So, no, LW, divorce is not going to warp your daughter. I like the idea of moving close to your family. Your daughter may or may not have her dad in her life, and that may or may not be a good thing. But it will only do her good to be surrounded by family who loves her.

    5. RedRoverRedRover says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. You’ve lucked out that your husband showed his true colours while your daughter’s so young. She’s not going to remember this and won’t be traumatized by it the way older kids are. By the time she can remember, she’ll be used to her life the way it is. You get to make the decision about what kind of childhood she’ll have and remember.

      From what you’ve said, it sounds like the choice is between living near your parents and giving your daughter three stable adult figures in her life, as well as a stable home on a solid financial foundation; or having one stable adult figure and one total flake, with the one stable adult stressed about money and working more than average to try to keep on top of things. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

  17. Just chiming in to say I loved Wendy’s advice.

  18. Anonymousse says:

    Move home now, for the support. Two hours isn’t much travel. If he wants a relationship, let him have one. What you’ve said makes it seems like you want him too, but he doesn’t really.
    Two hours isn’t prohibitive on a relationship. Move. You and your baby need all the love and support you can get.
    I grew up as a child of divorced parents with a shitty dad incapable of being a real father, or caring about me as a daughter. I have a stepfather who filled the role of father for me, and some other family friends and relatives who helped fill the role of a father in more ways then he would have ever been capable of doing, even if we lived in his town. At age 11, he stopped contacting my brother and myself completely. I’m now 32, and have seen him twice in the past 21 years, both times I made the visit happen.
    Your child won’t blame you for moving to where you had more support. Do what’s best for you and your child, every time you have to make a choice. He really shouldn’t even be in your thought process, especially if he’s as selfish and careless as he sounds here.

  19. You want to be a good mother, and this is great. So be realistic. Set your priorities. You have to provide a good, safe environment to your daughter (your family support) and achieve your graduate program. It would be a mistake to give it up, you would regret it later, and it is difficult to start school again after an interruption. Complete your study program, with the appropriate help for your baby. Accept the fact that you can’t do it all alone. It would be insane to sacrifice your objectives, your career opportunity, in order to make it comfortable for your ex-husband not to pay child support. I don’t get the logic. Be wise. The father-daughter relationship is your ex’s duty, not yours. He is failing you, and her already. Don’t start a guilt trip, and acknowledge that you need, for a while, your parents’ help. It is great that they are offering it, so enjoy the chance life is offering you and reach your goal.

  20. Bittergaymark says:

    I have a dream… that one day… asshole men and the dumb women who love them will just stop… just fucking STOP reproducing…

  21. LW, I am sure someone already said this ( I have not read all the responses yet), but go ahead and move near your family now. Use their support and finish your college. You can decide later whether it is a permanent move or not.

    Two hours is not that far for a father to travel who is interested in his child. It is his loss if he cannot make that much effort.

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