Working with your ex to put together an effective parenting plan that allows you to both be great co-parents can be one of the most challenging parts of the divorce process. It’s also critical considering the affect it has on mitigating the negative effects divorce can have on children.
This is often difficult under normal circumstances when both parents live relatively close to one another. But there are many reasons, post-divorce, that you might be forced to move a considerable distance away from your ex. You might need to move because of a new job or to be closer to an aging parent, for example.
If she is the custodial parent, then you will need to work with her to craft a long-distance parenting plan to ensure you stay involved in your kids’ lives. This is even more complicated than your typical custody arrangement.
Some long-distance parenting plans allow for monthly, or semi-monthly, visits between the non-custodial parent and kids in the custodial parent’s home state. In these situations, it is typically the non-custodial parent’s responsibility to provide the other parent advance notice of their intent to visit in order to minimize disruption to the children’s routine.
Some parenting plans also allow children to travel for regular visits with the non-custodial parent.
Residential time during school breaks
Even if some monthly visitation is allowed, it will likely be less time than usually allotted under a standard parenting plan. To make up for that lost time, many long-distance parenting plans allow for longer amounts of parenting time during school breaks and holidays.
The child might stay with the non-custodial parent for the majority of summer vacation and might also stay for most of spring and winter break.
Generally, divorced parents will still split up major traditional holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Any long-distance parenting plan is required to detail exactly how the children will travel to see the other parent.
If the children are flying, both parents will need to agree at what age they can fly unaccompanied. This will vary by airline. If they are too young, they will need to be accompanied by an agreed-upon adult.
The parenting plan also needs to specify which parent can make travel arrangements, how the flight tickets are paid for, and other details such as which airports the children can fly to and what are acceptable flight times.
If the travel is being done by car, the parenting plan needs to specify which parent is providing transportation. Often, the non-custodial parent will be required to provide all the transportation or the parents might split up the distance. If both parents are doing some driving, you will need to determine locations for the exchange, how to divide the cost of gas, and who is allowed to drive the children.
Technology and communication
While your move will prevent you from maintaining a daily in-person presence in your children’s lives, you can still communicate regularly, and sometimes daily.
In addition to regular phone calls, you can set up a Skype account and use it for video calls. Make sure you add to your parenting plan a requirement that both households maintain high-speed Internet.
Once your kids are a little older, you can use smartphones or tablets to FaceTime, text, and play games.
Work with your ex to set up a regular time for calls and other forms of communication so that this becomes a regular part of your kids’ routine.
How will this affect your kids? After a divorce, every decision you make needs to be made with your children’s best interests in mind. Even if you are able to set up a workable long-distance parenting plan, your kids are going to be faced with a lot of travel and long periods of separation from you. You also should consider the physical and emotional toll it’s going to take on you. Is this move really for the best?
Can you afford this? The cost of regular airfare, gas, lodging, food, time away from work, and other expenses will add up awfully fast. Make sure you factor that into your budget. You might be moving to take a higher-paying job, but how much will these added expenses cut into your raise?
Get everything in writing. You might have a great, or at least amicable, relationship with your ex at the moment. That could change down the road so you want to make sure you get every little detail regarding your long-term parenting plan in writing so she is legally bound to follow it.
Have an attorney look over your long-distance parenting plan
With so many details to cover, it is in your best interest to have an experienced family law attorney look over your long-distance parenting plan to ensure everything is properly addressed. This is the most effective way to ensure you remain actively involved in your children’s lives after your move.
The good news is that while long-distance parenting is hardly ideal, it can work and is actually much more manageable than it was just a decade or two ago.