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Divorced couples with kids face many challenges after separating, including determining child custody and visitation. However, if one of the ex-spouses decides to relocate somewhere far away, that could complicate the existing separation agreement. That’s why it’s so important to draw up a long-distance parenting plan so that the non-residential parent can maintain a healthy relationship with the children after moving away.
Every long-distance relationship has unique challenges. Creating a long-distance parenting plan is an intricate process requiring both parents to consider travel arrangements, transportation costs, and other various practicalities. You also might need to renegotiate and compromise on a visitation schedule that has become routine for your children and former spouse, which can cause headaches and potential heartache.
Because these issues are complex and can sometimes lead to disputes, we recommend consulting with a skilled and compassionate Virginia family law attorney at Invictus Law to help you create a legally valid and enforceable plan that will suit your family’s unique needs. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Through a long-distance parenting plan, you can create a provision that allows for regular visits with your children in the state where they primarily reside. These visits can be as often as once per month or semi-monthly. Most parenting plans will stipulate that the non-residential parent must give the residential parent sufficient notice of their intention to visit so the visitation doesn’t throw off the children’s usual routine.
Some common visitation schedules established by long-distance parenting plans include:
The frequency of visits will depend on various factors, most significantly the distance between the parents’ homes. The further away the non-residential parent lives, the more expensive it will be for them to regularly return to the children’s home state, and the more disruptive it could be for the children’s routine.
Because regular visitation can prove more logistically difficult under a long-distance parenting plan, these plans often permit the non-residential parent to spend substantial time with the children during holidays when the children don’t have academic obligations, including summertime and winter holiday breaks.
However, if one parent consistently gets more time with the children over the holidays, conflict can arise. That’s why most parents who live far apart will split significant family holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter so that each parent gets ample time to celebrate with their kids. Some parents also split three-day holiday weekends like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day.
Any long distance parenting plan should also establish travel logistics. When the children are out of school, they might travel by air or car to visit the non-residential parent, depending on how far away their other parent lives. It is important to create a plan that addresses not only how the children will travel to visit the non-residential parent but also which parent will pay for travel expenses. This might be stipulated in the original court order issued after the divorce. It is highly advisable to have a court order in place before moving.
Long-distance parenting plans should also outline how regularly the non-residential parent and their children will communicate with one another and which modes of communication will be used. Many non-residential parents prefer to do video calls, so they can see their children face-to-face despite not being physically present. However, phone calls, texts, and emails are all valid methods of communication as well. Once a communication schedule has been established, it can become part of the children’s regular routine.
A qualified family law attorney can help you draft a long-distance parenting plan that enables you to maintain a healthy connection to your children, even if you have decided to move a significant distance away.
There are many additional considerations that parents who live far apart may need to make that other divorced parents do not. Once you’ve identified your needs and goals, contact a Virginia child custody lawyer at Invictus Law for a free and honest initial case review.