Co-parenting in the 21st century comes with obstacles. Couples trying to accommodate two different households to maintain stability for their children can be difficult. Juggling schedules, arranging pick-ups, and attending events must be worked out constantly for the sake of your children.
Trying to co-parent over a long distance can add more stress to the lives of parents and children. Sometimes, one parent has to live away from the other parent and child. It could be a work assignment, a sick relative, or just the desire to be near other family members that can cause that kind of separation.
With careful planning, a parenting plan and a stable schedule can be beneficial to you and your children. If you are trying to co-parent a child from far away, here are some resources that may help you create a long-distance parenting plan.
Purpose of a Long-Distance Parenting Plan
There is no doubt that children thrive when they have access to both of their parents. However, many circumstances can separate a tight family. Even if a divorced or separated couple remains on good terms, distance can strain any family. Some reasons that families get pulled into a long-distance arrangement are:
Change of Employment
If one of the co-parents gets a new job, a promotion, or their spouse’s work changes, there may be a chance that they will have to relocate. Unless the other parent is willing to uproot their life and move, this can cause a long-distance parenting challenge.
If one party’s parents or another relative falls ill, they may need you to take care of them necessitating a relocation, at least temporarily. If this takes you away from your children’s home, having a long distance parenting plan may benefit all.
When one parent must live a long distance from their children, most people use a co-parenting plan. Just as custody decisions are enacted when a divorce or separation occurs, a long-distance parenting plan can assist parents to help their children in every way possible. The goals of a long-distance parenting plan are as follows:
- Encourage healthy communication
- Arrange visitation for the non-custodial parent
- Make a calendar to outline visitations and holidays
- Help create a timetable for travel to get the children from one parent to the other.
Personal Factors to Consider in Your Long-Distance Parenting Plan
One plan is not the right fit for every family, so finding a good lawyer to help is necessary. Here are some of the things you should take into consideration when considering the right long-distance parenting plan for your family.
Age of Children
The age of your children will influence most of your parenting plan. Teenagers do not require the same level of attention as a baby or a toddler. If your child is 16, you might trust them to travel alone to the other parent’s home. A small child will need to have reasonable accommodations and a travel chaperone.
The maturity of your child is a factor as well. Some parents can trust their teenagers to drive a long distance because of their maturity. Other teenagers are not as focused and will need more support during the journey.
Travel is expensive, and the cost of getting children from one place to the other has to be considered when drafting your plan. If one parent lives several states away, flying may be the only option for travel arrangements to avoid spending the entire visit in the car.
However, if your finances are tight, it may mean that there will be fewer in-person visits because of the cost.
Distance Between Parents
Divorces or separations where the parents live in the same city make the division of parenting time much easier. Traveling from one parent to the other can mean meeting up in the middle or taking a long car ride. When the distance is hundreds of miles it can make things more difficult.
You must consider travel arrangements in the co-parenting plan, which may affect the frequency of visits.
Health and Developmental Considerations
Many families have children who have special needs. Some have developmental delays, while others have health concerns that both parties should consider in a co-parenting plan. You can address these issues when you put your long-distance parenting plan in place.
What Should Be Included in a Long-distance Parenting Plan?
The idea of a co-parenting plan is cooperation. When all possible issues of concern are addressed upfront, and communication remains respectful, children can then thrive without worry. When you and your co-parent prepare to develop your plan, you should keep cooperation in mind.
Long distance parents will need to decide how to divide time with their child. A common arrangement is for the child to live with one parent during the school year and the other during summers. If parents cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, regardless of their proximity to one another, the Court will make a determination based on the best interests of the child.
A child’s parents are a very important part of their upbringing. They learn how to form relationships during their childhood, and the way their parents interact with one another is a big part of that. It is important that parents minimize conflict in front of their child whenever possible.
Depending on the distance a child will have to travel, there are many considerations that relate to travel arrangements, such as:
- Who is responsible for buying the ticket if the child is flying?
- Will one of the parents accompany the child and are they responsible for their ticket?
- Will the other parent remain in town and will someone compensate their expenses?
- If traveling by car, which parent is responsible for driving?
- Will the driving parent receive reimbursement for money they spent on gas?
Work With an Attorney On Your Long-Distance Parenting Plan
Regardless of how well your communication is with your child’s other parent, a long-distance parenting plan is a good idea if you believe distance is a possibility for your family. When dealing with travel, accommodations, and schedules, it is important to have as much planning done in advance as possible. It leads to fewer problems and less stress later on.
When you are ready to develop a long-distance parenting plan, you will need the help of an experienced attorney. We have a staff of knowledgeable lawyers who can guide you through the process. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you through your divorce.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.