Whether by chance or by choice, you’ve found yourself needing to create a workable, acceptable long-term parenting plan with your ex.These parenting plans are exceptionally common, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating for co-parents to create. But, like all things when co-parenting, long-distance parenting plans require compromise and a willingness to do what’s best for the children first, forcing the adults to put their egos aside.If you’re faced with drafting a long-distance parenting plan, here’s some guidance to make the process a little bit easier:
Factors Impacting Long-Distance Parenting Plans
When creating a long-distance parenting plan, there are several things both parties must consider when making decisions.Here are 4 major factors that can impact the conditions laid out in your parenting plan:
Age and maturity of the children: Teenagers are much more capable of being away from their primary parent for long periods of time and traveling distances for visits than toddlers may be. Take into account your children’s ages and maturity now, and realize you may have to adapt the parenting plan over time.
Distance between parents: The farther away you are from one another, the more complicated visitation becomes. If you and the other parent live a car-ride away, monthly or semi-monthly parenting time can work; for anything that will require long trips or plane rides, you may need to consider semi-annual or annual trips that last longer periods of time.
Economic capability: If traveling between homes is going to put a huge financial burden on one or both parents, it may impact how often the child is able to visit.
Developmental and health concerns: Children who have specialized needs may not be as able to easily travel between homes. This may require adapting the parenting plan so that, for example, the other parent comes to visit the child occasionally instead of the child being the one traveling.
Parts of a Long-Distance Parenting Plan
The more your parenting plan can cover in detail, the better off your ability to successfully co-parent will be.Here are some crucial parts of a long-distance parenting plan you need to address:
Outlining how communication between the long-distance parent and the children should be handled is crucial. Frequent communication when a parent and child cannot see one another for a while is helpful in fostering a close parent-child relationship that will last.Some of the things to address include:
How often the long-distance parent and child can communicate: Will there be weekly phone calls? Should the parent or child be able to call or text whenever they want? The answer may be different based on the age of the child and whether or not they have easy access to their own means of communication.
How the parent and child should communicate: Phone calls, texting, video chatting, and other means of communication should be listed.
How communication with the custodial parent will be handled during visits with the long-distance parent: Should there be schedule calls, or will the child have the opportunity to contact the parent at will?
In addition to communications concerns between the parents and the child, a great long-distance parenting plan should lay out specifics for communication between the parents.Some of the considerations to address include:
Frequency of updates the long-distance parent should receive on the child
How the parents should communicate with one another
How temporary adjustments to the communication plan should be handled
When parents live far apart, handling regular or semi-regular visitation takes a lot of careful planning.In drawing up your long-distance parenting plan, here are some things to address:
Frequency of visits: The closer the long-distance parent lives to the child, the more frequent the contact can be. However, things such as the child’s schedule, the parents’ work schedules, and financial means must be factored into this decision.
Length of visits: If you’re dealing with more frequent visitation, a weekend at a time with more lengthy periods of time during holidays and school breaks is usually standard. For parents who live farther apart, however, these periods of time may be more lengthy, such as entire weeks or months with the long-distance parent, especially as the child ages.
How far in advance visits should be scheduled: If you are planning to allow for some flexibility in visitation, such as “two weeks in summer” instead of noting specific weeks, there should be guidelines as to how far in advance the parents should plan the child’s visits.
Holidays and vacations: For many long-distance parents, the majority of their time with the child takes place during holidays and school breaks. Both parents should be given an opportunity to celebrate key holidays with the child, which may mean that some flexibility on both parties’ parts is necessary in setting up the schedule.
Once you have figured out just how often the child will see the long-distance parent, you have to figure out how the child will get to that parent.In the case of parents who are a car ride apart, many families opt to have parents rotate pickup duties (Ex: The long-distance parent picks the child up for the start of their parenting time, and the custodial parent picks the child up at the end of this time). However, depending on individual scheduling and budgetary concerns, you may need to figure out an alternative plan.For children who need to travel longer distances, such as via train or airplane, both parties need to work out who pays for the child’s ticket and, in the event that the child has to be accompanied by an adult, who should accompany the child.No matter what you decide in creating your long-distance parenting plan, it’s essential that both parties go in with a spirit of compromise and looking to do what’s best for the child.