DRAFTING LONG-DISTANCE PARENTING PLANS
A well drafted long-distance parenting plan can provide your children and the non-residential parent with the opportunity to maintain regular and wholesome parenting time with the children when the homes of divorced or separating parents are far away from each other or if either parent relocates a significant distance.
A long-distance parenting plan should take into account the unique circumstances of each family. It requires careful consideration and detailed planning to ensure that both parents maintain regular contact with their children. Long-distance parenting plans can be challenging, especially when a regular pattern of visitation has already been established and now must be renegotiated or litigated in court.
Let us help you with your long-distance parenting plan. Contact Us at the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 for a free long-distance parenting plan consultation.
There are several key issues which should be addressed in a long-distance parenting plan.
REGULAR MONTHLY VISITATION
For those families that can afford the cost of travel, regular visitation is an important item to be incorporated into any successful long-distance parenting plan. The non-residential parent should be offered a minimum of one weekend per month on ten days’ notice should they be able to make proper travel accommodations for the children.
Many long-distance parenting plan are designed to maintain contact with the children by using provisions that allow for regular monthly (or even semi-monthly) visits with the children in their home state. The provisions should require the non-residential parent to provide reasonable notice of their intent to exercise this time to ensure that expectations are not made which cannot be met or that the children’s regular routine is not disrupted. The long-distance parenting plan may also allow the children to travel to the non-residential parent’s home state on a periodic basis as well. Such plans should take into account the age restrictions for children to travel on airlines and are generally suited for children ages 12 and older.
Quite often regular monthly visitation is too costly and is impractical for many families. When the distance between the parents is substantial, the cost of regular monthly visitation may be cost prohibitive or too disruptive for the children to regularly travel between the two homes. Consequently, most long-distance parenting plans provide for longer visits to the non-residential parent during breaks from school. They provide for visitation during winter break, spring break and during the summer.
FOCUS ON PROVIDING AMPLE RESIDENTIAL TIME DURING REGULAR BREAKS FROM SCHOOL
Most courts are inclined to offer the non-residential parent substantial visitation with their children during normal breaks from school. Here the court will allow the non-residential parent substantial visitation during the winter break. It is also quite common for the non-residential parent to be awarded the entire spring break each year to make up for the loss of monthly parenting time. This is further buttressed by allowing the non-residential parent a significant block of time during the summer to make up for the shortfall in visitation during the school year. Most standardized long-distance parenting plans adopted by the courts will allow the non-residential parent six weeks of summer visitation time.
A well-drafted long-distance parenting plan will allow the child transition time when school lets out and one week before school resumes in the fall.
Many parents find it useful to allow the non-residential parent a two-week block of time followed by one week back in their normal housing. This can be broken up in a variety of ways but allows the children to spend quality residential summer parenting time with the primary parent between visits with the non-residential parent. This works well for younger children who may become anxious or greatly miss their custodial parent after an extended period of time.
Traditional family holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving can be split or alternated between the parties to ensure that each parent has quality celebration time with the children. Each parent should have an opportunity to celebrate at least one major holiday with the children in any given calendar year.
The non-residential parent may also be afforded additional parenting time on longer holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Labor Day each year.
Long-distance parenting plans require the parents to make transportation arrangements on a regular basis. It is important that a well-drafted parenting plan set forth in detail how the children will travel to see the other parent and how the expenses for the transportation will be paid.
A well-drafted long-distance parenting plan should take into account accompanying the child when traveling by air at the departure, any layovers and upon arrival at the airport. For children under the age of 12, this often means that a parent must travel with the child on each leg of the trip. Older children should be able to fly unaccompanied by an adult so the plan should address the age at which the parents agree that unaccompanied travel is inappropriate. It is important to note that each airline may have different requirements for the specific age at which a child may fly without an adult.
• The long-distance parenting plan should memorialize other long-distance air travel details such as the specific airport that the children will fly in and out of.
• Acceptable times for travel to begin and end.
• How and when tickets will be purchased.
• Which parent is responsible for making travel arrangements.
The issue of transportation can easily be worked out by the parties in a well-drafted long-distance parenting plan. Quite often the cost of travel is split with each party paying for one-half of the visit so that the delivering parent pays for one leg and the receiving parent pays for the return trip.
Parents may also agree to modify child support to compensate the non-residential parent for transportation costs in seeing the children.
The courts are generally willing to consider stipulated agreements with regards to visitation and travel arrangements. It is always better for the parties to agree on the arrangements rather than have the court force a given scenario.
A long-distance parenting plan should also provide for regular communication between the children and the non-residential parent. Given the advances in modern technology, this can be done on a relatively low-cost basis by using regular contact with Skype or other internet messaging services. Video calls permit the parent and child to have face-to-face conversations regardless of the distance between them. Such contact is especially important with young children who are not spending regular time with the non-residential parent.
It is essential to formulate a workable regular schedule for telephone calls. Generally, a parent should be entitled to unlimited communication with the children during reasonable hours. Such communication can be facilitated by the child having a cell phone to talk with the other parent. With children who are very young, the residential parent should be required to facilitate telephone calls with the young child. A regular schedule can be arranged to facilitate contact with young children.
Email and instant messaging are also quality methods of maintaining contact with non-residential parent and their children. The use of texting is often the predominant method of communication for teenagers in any event.
CONTACT PAUL F. SHERMAN FOR EXPERT ADVISE ON DRAFTING LONG DISTANCE PARENTING PLANS
We know you have more questions and we have answers. If you would like to learn more about drafting a long distance parenting plan for your family or about divorce, child custody or any family law matter, call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 for legal advice, or Contact Us for a free consultation.