Here at BestCaseParenting.com, the aim is to build up a complete resource on parenting and education issues or problems. So far, I have created a lot of articles about education for young children, but this article shifts the focus to long distance parenting, long distance parenting plan formulation and long distance visitation schedules.
I would like to say very clearly at the start. The idea of this article is to provide a starting point for any parents that find themselves in a situation where long distance parenting is a possible reality. This article aims to make those parents aware of the factors involved in the process and possible complications. It is more a conversational piece, rather than a guide on exactly how to draw up a plan. I am in no way giving legal advice on this matter, if you need this then seek out a professional.
What is the need for a long distance parenting plan?
In this day and age, divorce or separation is quite common. It is becoming a part of everyday life for many adults and children. For example, in the 44 reporting states in America, 3.2 per 1,000 population got divorced in 2016. To give context, in the same year, 6.9 per 1,000 got married.
This article will look at the considerations that need to happen when a couple with children decide to go down this route. Of course, there are legal considerations to consider. More importantly, we must remember the potential impact on the child involved.
With all these things carefully considered, the aim is to make the impact on the child as acceptable as possible.
In your country or state, a parenting plan or long distance parenting plan may be legally required or provide great support for a custody agreement. A qualified lawyer should be contacted to draft such a document. Even if these plans aren’t a legal requirement for you or your situation, it may still be an important thing to consider in order to properly consider any possible impact on your child.
Even if you don’t commit anything to paper, at the very least it should highlight some key points for consideration.
You may not even be getting divorced or separated. It could just be that one of the parents is simply moving away for work reasons. Some of the points in this article could be a benefit to this situation too.
Disclaimer: I am in no way offering legal advice. This article is designed as a simple guide for parents who find themselves in this situation. You should always seek the advice of a lawyer when making an official long distance parenting plan.
In many of the situations discussed above, the two parents involved may verbally come to an agreement about the parenting arrangements for their child. However, the problem usually arises when you get down to the finer details. If these details haven’t been agreed properly beforehand, it could lead to major disagreements in the future. It is always a good idea to put this into a physical document to make sure this doesn’t happen.
When the two parents are in the same physical place, a parenting plan will happen quite naturally. Any small disagreements can be discussed on the spot and more easily remedied. However, when distance is involved, it is very easy for disagreements to go unnoticed and build into much bigger issues.
So again, whether this is a legal requirement or not, making a long distance parenting plan of some form, often makes sense for both parties.
Things to consider when making a long distance parenting plan.
You are creating a more stable environment for your child to grow up in.
The plan that you make means that there are set routines that are followed. Your child will grow up in a consistent environment, where they will learn to expect the same things to happen in regular everyday situations. This stable and predictable environment will help your child’s mental stability greatly. There will be no second guessing for them, they will know what to expect in each scenario.
Is long distance parenting a viable choice?
It is recommended for parent-child contact time to happen at least once a month. Can you afford the financial or time expense that may be needed to organise this. Maintaining a good relationship with your child could depend greatly on the frequency of parent-child contact. On top of this, do the parents schedules match up to facilitate an amount of parenting time that is acceptable to both parents?
Do you have the flexibility to make long distance parenting a success?
I have heard time and time again that one of the keys to successful long distance parenting is the ability to see your child when they are on school holidays. For a long distance parenting plan to work well, the ability to cater for this would be important.
What will the effect be on the wider family?
I sure you will agree, that more often than not, contact between the child and the wider family is an important thing to consider. For example, will there be any arrangements to help the child to see grandparents?
Age of the child
It is usually easier to make arrangements for a long distance parenting plan when the child involved is a young child. For example, when a child gets close to being a teenager, arrangements may get more complex and harder to setup. This should always be a consideration when making a parenting plan.
What are some of the finer points to “nail down” in a long distance parenting plan?
Clearly, this will be the main part of any parenting plan. It should detail clearly who has custody of the child and when. Also, what will happen if situations arise that may change a parents ability to take custody.
When will the regular visitations happen? Where will the child and parents stay during these visitations? What happens if there is an emergency that prevents visitation? Will the time be made up? As you can see, the topic of both Custody and Visitations is not always as simple as it may first seem. By locking down all possible situations and outcomes, it should help to eliminate future problems or misunderstandings. These two aspects make up a large proportion of the agreement and must be agreed in a robust way for all parties.
The best way of presenting the main custody and visitation agreement is to make a long distance visitation schedule that shows exactly where the child will be and when.
Will there be an agreed protocol for a parent to request a vacation with their child? Are there certain times of year that each a parent can arrange vacations? What level of flexibility will be built into this plan?
What form long distance communication will take?
Regular communication is an important part of a long distance parenting plan. Any good plan should make sure to include this. The type of communication and regularity should be agreed upon.
Typically, telephone or live streaming video calls are used to facilitate this communication.
This modern technology has significantly helped any situation where long distance parenting is involved. But always remember that this shouldn’t take the place of physically seeing your child.
As well as thinking about the parent-child long distance communication, it is equally as important to consider the communication between the parents. Who has authority to make what decisions relating to the child? Who will attend school events? These examples show the importance of parent communication. A regular schedule of communication would likely work better than an ad-hoc one.
Who pays for what?
Typically, parents plans should include details on who pays for such things as cost of schooling, healthcare and of course general child support arrangements.
Long distance parenting will involve a lot of travelling. I have talked about the financial considerations that allow parents to travel and see their children regularly.
In this situation, we are talking about when the child is travelling in order to stay with a parent.
In general terms, it should be decided who pays for the different types of transportation methods.
There are also transport specific considerations to make.
Who will drive the car?
Where will the parents meet?
Who will make arrangements to buy the ticket?
What exact flights will usually be taken? Are there any routes that aren’t acceptable?
Depending on the age of the child, what supervision is organised whilst on the flight?
Who is taking the child to and picking the child up from the airport?
Whatever situation may have risen to make you consider a long distance parenting plan, I hope this article has gone some way to help your thought process around this. There is a lot to consider and a lot of fine details to arrange. If you go ahead with this, then hopefully you will be able to make these arrangements in the best way possible. This will ensure that the impact on your child will be kept to a minimum.
When looking at long distance parenting plans on the internet, I found a lot of very factual content (mostly by law firms). This is why I decided to make something a bit more informal and (hopefully) thought provoking! I don’t know if I succeeded, but it was an enjoyable experience to write!
If you have experience of making such long distance parenting plans or long distance visitation schedules, it would be great to hear your views and advice in the comment section below.
There is an excellent resource that I would recommend for making these plans, which is linked here: