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Factors to consider when drafting a long-distance parenting plan

If you and your co-parent will be living some distance apart after your divorce and sharing custody of your children, or even if one of you will have them most of the time while the other one will have scheduled visitation, you’ll need to work out a long-distance parenting plan.

These plans are typically more complex than plans developed by parents who continue to live in close proximity. Therefore, if one of you moves away after your original plan is put in place, you’ll likely need to make some significant modifications.

The specifics of a long-distance parenting plan will depend on a variety of factors. These include:

Distance

Will the parents be close enough for the children to travel by car, or will they need to travel by air? It’s more feasible to plan for a road trip from Memphis to Nashville once or twice a month than a flight to and from Los Angeles, for example.

Economic considerations

These are a big factor in how frequently children can travel between their parents’ homes — particularly if plane or train travel is involved. Of course, parents will need to determine how travel expenses will be split.

Children’s ages and maturity

The mode of transportation between homes will depend in large part on how old your kids are and their maturity level. For example, if your kids are still very young and you and your co-parent live more than a few hours apart, you’ll either need to accompany them to their other parent’s or the parent who is some distance away will need to come to them.

Communication

It’s essential that your kids be able to communicate regularly with the parent they aren’t with — particularly if they live with one parent most of the time. Your long-distance parenting plan should spell out how frequently and by what methods kids will communicate with the parent they’re away from. Fortunately, there are myriad ways for parents and kids to talk and even see each other from across the country or the other side of the world. However, both parents need to commit to engaging in and allowing regular communication.

Whether you’re developing a long-distance parenting plan as part of your divorce process or you’re modifying your existing plan as the result of a move, your attorney can help you work to develop a plan that focuses on your children’s best interests.