After a divorce or separation, parents will need to start over and rebuild their lives as a single person and a single parent. In some situations, this may result in residing far from the children. In such a situation, even a minimal parenting schedule of alternating weekends will probably be unworkable. Too much travel is not best for the children, to say nothing of the increased expense. Long-distance parenting schedules are workable, but they need special consideration.
Just like a more traditional parenting plan, a long-distance parenting plan must be crafted with the best interest of the children in mind, as well as maximizing and facilitating the relationship of both parents with the children. With today’s technology, there are many ways that parents can remain in contact with their children despite distance issues. Parenting plans should typically build in contact provisions, including phone calls between parents and children. In the case of a long-distance plan where parents may have infrequent physical contact with the children, parents should consider face-to-face technology, such as Skype or FaceTime. As with phone calls, parents should be sensitive to the age of the children when considering the frequency and duration of such contact. Older children may also benefit from having access to mobile devices, and being able to directly text, message, or email the other parent.
Physical visitation with the children is also clearly a crucial and central issue. The amount of visitation will often depend on how far away the parents are from one another. For example, while a parent living 100 miles away could probably exercise visits for long weekends, the same arrangement would probably be impractical for a parent living 1,000 miles away. In the case of a parent living a great distance away, it may be convenient for the non-custodial parent to have more infrequent, but longer, periods of visitation. This will allow for the parent to have substantial visits while also keeping travel time and cost to a minimum. Parents need to also be sensitive and aware of the cost and logistics of travel. While a sixteen-year-old can probably fly as an unaccompanied minor, a ten-year-old may be too young. This will be highly dependent on the maturity of the child and the parents’ comfort level. This issue should not be overlooked when attempting to settle a case or when asking the court to create a long-distance plan. The cost of the travel also needs to be considered and apportioned to avoid future disputes.
Long-distance parenting plans present special issues and challenges. We have helped many clients craft agreements that take these issues into account. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your case.