A common issue in custody cases is one of distance – what happens when one parent wants to move with the children? In my years as a Family Law Attorney, I have seen a number of situations where a parent wants to move with the children, from across town to across the country. Any change in the distance between two homes requires adjustment of the parenting schedule, which can be a challenge for both parents. If you are the parent requesting the move, you may have to give up your long summers vacationing with the children and miss several holidays with them. If you are the parent staying put, you will not be able to pick up the children from school anymore nor have regular overnight visits, and you will miss regular activities that you once enjoyed with the children.
In my 2019 upcoming book, "Child Custody & Visitation in California: Preparing for The Battle Ahead and Strategies for Winning The War", I talk about how to end the war by trying to come to an agreement with the other parent. Before the Court gets involved, consider speaking to the other parent about the proposed move, and have a meaningful conversation about the impact of a move on the children. Here are a few questions to discuss:
When will I have time with our children? If you are the moving parent, present your intent to move with a proposed alternative schedule, allowing considerable time throughout the year for the other parent to have the children. When parents live far apart, the school schedule for the children will take precedence. Long periods out of school and long weekends can be offered to the other parent. A significant portion of the 10- to 12- week summer break, the 2- to 3-week Christmas break, and the 1-week vacations during the year (Spring Break, Thanksgiving) are all times to be considered. For long 3-day weekends, offer the other parent the opportunity to come visit with the children in your new city. Print out a calendar and highlight the times you are proposing that the other parent will have.
How will we exchange the children? The mode of transportation for custodial exchanges with the children will depend on the distance between the homes and their age. Younger children cannot fly alone, and one parent will have to accompany the children on the flight. Trains and buses create similar problems of safety for the children. If the children need assistance to travel to see the other parent, you can travel with the children and stay in town during their time. Spend the time catching up with friends or family, or read the latest bestseller.
Who will pay for transportation? The distance between the homes can result in considerable travel costs. Airplane flights, especially around the time of major holidays, can be expensive. While splitting the cost of transportation may seem like the fairest option, there are other considerations: income of the parties, who requested the move thereby causing the increased costs for visitation. These costs should also be considered if you and the other parent are discussing a change in child support to match the proposed new schedule.
Can we use technology to bridge the gaps? Even with the best-laid plans for continuing contact with your children, the long periods of time between seeing them can be difficult. Propose a plan to have technology bridge the gaps. Set up a Facetime or Skype appointment a few evenings a week with your children. Perhaps you can help your daughter with her math homework, or eat breakfast with your son in the morning, all via live video conferencing. You will be able to participate in the everyday tasks and activities through technology. Propose to purchase the equipment to keep the children connected with their other parent.
Occasionally, the best intentions are met with resistance, and Court intervention is necessary to address a parent’s request for a move-away. I will examine a few ways to present your case to a Judge either for a move-away, or to stop the parent from moving, in my next blog. Good luck and I hope this helps!
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Shauna M. Albright,
Founding and Managing Attorney of The Law Offices of Shauna M. Albright
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