Child Visitation Plans When Parents Live in Separate States
In today's society, people are mobile and tend to move often. Spouses relocating after divorce is commonplace. As a result, visitation issues across long distances (and state lines) frequently arise. Often, a typical parenting plan and visitation schedule is not suitable in long-distance situations when each parent resides in a different state.
It is, however, possible to ensure that a child maintains quality time and a close relationship with the non-custodial parent residing in another state. Parents just have to be more flexible and accommodating to achieve this aim. Visitation might encompass school breaks during fall and spring, Christmas break, and extended stays during summer. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter may be thrown in the mix, as well as Mother's Day and Father's Day, each parent's birthday, and the child's birthday. In many long-distance situations, arrangements are made for the child to spend alternating holidays with each parent.
It is usually best for parents to come to an agreement on transportation and related costs associated with child visits out of state in advance. Issues such as how the child is to be transported, whether a parent must accompany the child during travel, who bears costs of transportation, and who covers the child's expenses during the visit are fair game for negotiation and agreement during such decision-making. The more comprehensive and detailed parents are in their pre-planning, the less last-minute anxiety and conflict that are likely to result.
When spouses reside sufficiently close to one another, they may be able to drive a child from one parent's home to the other's for visits. However, driving often is not practical if the visit is short-term and the parents' homes are located hours apart from one another in states that are not adjoining or located close together. In these instances, flying might be the only viable alternative for a child's travel to visits with the non-custodial parent. In order for a child to fly, that child must meet a minimum age requirement for independent travel. For most airlines, that requisite age is five; otherwise, an adult must accompany the child on flights. When an adult airline ticket is involved, transportation costs increase substantially, and parents should address the apportionment of that cost in advance, if possible.
Communication and Correspondence
Another way to promote contact between a child and out-of-state non-custodial parent is to allow the child to exchange unlimited correspondence with the parent, as well as daily phone calls at reasonable times in the child's routine and schedule. The older the child, the more lengthy and more frequent phone calls and correspondence can become. With today's technology, e-mails, text messages and Web cameras can be used to maintain invaluable parental contact.
When considering child visitation plans for parents living in separate states, it is important to stay flexible and communicate openly. No single plan will fit all circumstances but, as long as the parents commit to having a plan, the details can be more easily arranged.