The Ingredients of A Long Distance Parenting Plan

The Ingredients of A Long Distance Parenting Plan

There are many parts to creating a long distance parenting plan.  When When you get to the meat an potatoes of what to include in the parenting plan it can be tough to make sure you have it all down. 

This post covers some things to remember in your long distance divorce and custody agreement. Combined with looking over some long distance parenting plan examples, you should be all set to create your perfect long distance parenting plan.

Always Have a Court Order Before You Move

No matter what you choose to have in your parenting plan, it’s important to always have a court order before you become a long distance parent. This will ensure that your parental rights are respected even if your co-parent is feeling less than charitable.

This post will walk you through some of the things to consider in your long distance parenting plan. Once you’ve brainstormed through what you want in your plan, follow up with making it legally binding. Before you move.

Make your parenting plan what you want

Your divorce agreement and parenting plan can include just about anything that you want it to include as long as either A) both parents agree to include it or B) If the other parent disputes it, the judge says it should be there. The thing to remember is that this agreement, once made, will be very difficult, if not impossible, to change.

MAKE SURE that you read, re-read and read again every single line before you sign anything. Make sure that you have considered every item you might need in a long distance parenting plan as well as possible and that you agree with everything in the final plan.

Remember what’s important

The child! If your relationship with your co-parent is contentious, in the thick of things, it’s easy to get caught up in how horrible the other parent is and how much you dislike them or how hurt you are by what they said or did. However, in 10 years or 20 years, those feelings will have subsided but their effects and the effect of the agreements you make now will remain.

Compromise where necessary

When pondering a difficult decision regarding the agreement, always think ‘How would I feel if the tables were turned and that condition were imposed upon me?’. Or ‘How would that condition affect my relationship with my child if it were imposed upon me?’ If you wouldn’t want that condition put upon you, it’s worth considering not imposing it upon your co-parent.

However, at the same time, don’t agree to things or be forced into things that would diminish your relationship with the child.

Certainly, should disagreements arise between yourself and your co-parent in what’s included, try to negotiate by adding or taking away conditions that make it more pleasant for them. Use other items that aren’t as important to you to barter with. Always with the frame of mind of coming to a common ground. Should that be impossible to do, consider going to mediation.

Never go on faith

So you get along great and the child’s other parent tells you ‘don’t worry about that… I’ll always do that for you’. Get it in writing! If your relationship changes 5 years down the road, you wont want to be shorted and what’s in writing is what counts. It isn’t an insult to them to make them put it in writing. It’s sensible and the smart thing to do. If they wont put it in writing, don’t depend upon it

Whatever can happen WILL happen down the road. Consider every possible contingency. What things could the other parent use as excuses to deny virtual visitation? For instance, stipulate that both parents are required to maintain working webcams, computers and internet connections. That is a fairly painless to include as a requirement in your parenting plan. Should they use a non-working computer or internet connection as a consistent excuse to deny visitation down the road, they could be held in contempt.

Brainstorm

Visitation in a long distance parenting plan

I’ve written in depth about long distance parenting visitation. It differs from normal visitation – well, because of the distance. While parents who are not at a distance can simply drive back and forth to pick the kids up, long distance parents can’t do that. So you have extended visits, travel and internet visitation or video chat considerations. Aside from what is typically in a parenting plan, these considerations must also be worked in.

In Person Visitation

  • What special holidays will you have the child? Outside of the big ones, consider Mother’s day, Father’s day and birthdays.
  • Which school vacations will the child spend with you? Spring break is an example of a school vacation that is not a holiday.
  • Before and after long visitations, should the child have a settling in period before school starts again (return the child 1 week before school starts)?
  • If you are in town, what type of visitation should you be entitled to?
  • Travel Expenses
    • If the child is young, s/he will be unable to travel unaccompanied (per the airlines). In that case, who will escort them and how will the companion ticket costs be split?
    • Who will pay how much for travel and what will be included in shared travel expenses? For example, perhaps you agree to split the costs of flights but because the assumption is that the child will be flying to your home, you don’t split the cost of lodging.
    • Will it be deducted from child support or included in the child support calculation?
    • How will you agree to keep the costs of travel manageable? This can include things like reservations must be made X days in advance.
    • Who will foot the travel bill? Will it be split? If so, what is the maximum each parent will be required to pay?
  • How far in advance do reservations need to be made and what kind of notice does each parent get?
  • What input does the other parent have into travel arrangement dates/times?

Internet Visitation and Phone Calls

  • Both parents should be required, in writing, to maintain a high speed internet connection and a working computer/laptop/tablet with a working camera.
  • Internet visitation should happen at least as frequently as in-person visitation would if the long distance parent were close by. However, video chat is more flexible than in person visitation and kids sometimes don’t have the patience to sit on a call for long, so it might make sense to make it more frequent.
  • Will the child have their own cell phone? Who will pay and how much?

Financial considerations in a long distance parenting plan

  • What years will you get to claim the child on your taxes? It’s common to alternate. Consider getting IRS form 8332 signed ahead of time.
  • When the child is with you for extended periods of time (months) who will pay child support to who? Or are the extended visits factored into child support?
  • How much life insurance will you each carry with the child as the beneficiary?
  • Who will maintain medical and dental insurance for the child? The expenses of this are often included in the child support calculation.

General Custody Considerations

  • School
  • Cohabitation
    • If the parents have roommates or live-in partners, what kind of criminal and psychiatric backgrounds must the roommate have?
    • How much say does the other parent have in cohabitation?
  • Partners
    • When can the child be exposed to new partners?
  • babysitters, family and childcare – When the child is with family, babysitters or childcare, what kind of access will the long distance parent have to the child?

Put it Into Action

In conclusion, while there are many things to consider in a long distance parenting plan that a typical parenting plan might not need to include, it’s not as difficult as it may seem at the onset.

Once you’ve brainstormed and have your thoughts together, it’s important to make it into a legally binding court order. This post walks you through how to make your long distance parenting plan legally binding, from start to finish.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Step-Mom Mediator

    An issue that we have come across regarding health insurance for our oldest who lives with his Mom in one state and travels to see his Dad and I in another state, is how to get them covered in both places. Generally the non-custodial parent carries insurance, however if that is an HMO through an employer, it most likely won’t cover the child while with the custodial parent in another state. Now the Marketplace is an option and if the non-custodial parent gets to claim the child every other year, on those years may qualify for a tax break but not on the other years.

    What we ended up doing was buying a plan straight from the company, at full price because we don’t get to claim the child on taxes at all and last year had a plan that covered him in both states. This year however, they have discontinued that plan and we were left to buy an HMO in the custodial parents state since he is seen by doctors most often there and is only covered for emergencies here. Since he is with us for 2 months out of the summer, that is a long time to cross our fingers and hope he doesn’t get sick or injured that only requires a clinic visit. On the other side of that, is that he is yes covered to go to the emergency room and an ambulance ride there if needed but if admitted to the hospital, there is no coverage for staying overnight, which would be a large expense. In the policy that was “affordable” to us, there isn’t even coverage to go to Urgent Care and I’m quite sure if you go to the ER with something that they don’t deem an emergency, they won’t pay for it.

    So this means a large group of children from my understanding, will be left with worse than catastrophe coverage while with the non-custodial parent, who is probably paying for the policy. I’ve been at a loss to find a solution to this problem and for the past month, at least, have been working with one of the big named insurance companies and couldn’t get an answer either. This company offers multi-state policies which seem like the answer but I was repeatedly told that those policies “only look and feel like multi-state coverage but don’t really work that way”. I would love to hear what other families are doing in this situation and if they have any solution to covering the child in both states.

  2. Bobby Mederios

    Are these examples accepted in Florida. . Me and my wife are separated and we’re going through the motions for a divorce but I like to have my ducks in a row prior. I have now relocated to Massachusetts and she’s obviously in Florida I have not seen my children for 2 weeks now all been able to communicate

  3. Amber

    Has anyone heard of or done a year on, year off schedule? My step daughter moved to live with her mother in CA, dad and I live in OK. We were told about the year on year off schedule but want more information on it. I haven’t been able to find much.

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