Arizona courts prefer to split legal decision making and parenting time as equally as possible between two parents in a custody agreement, but it doesn’t always work out that way. If you have to move too far away for a more equal split of parenting time, what will that mean for your relationship with your child? Whether your divorce is a current event or you’re modifying an older parenting agreement, here is everything you need to know about what long distance parenting means for you.
You’ll likely need to pay more for travel expenses. Keep in mind that you will most likely be responsible for a greater share of custody-related travel expenses. This is to make the situation more equitable, since whether it’s for work or by choice, you are the one moving. Most likely, the blocks of parenting time will be less frequent than if you lived nearby, which should alleviate the cost somewhat.
You’ll get fewer blocks of parenting time. Rather than alternating days or weeks with a fairly equal split throughout the year, a long distance parent will generally get fewer but longer and/or more important blocks of parenting time throughout the year to make the arrangement equitable. Arizona family courts generally expect the long distance parent to get at least four blocks of parenting time throughout the year. For instance, summer break, Thanksgiving or winter break, spring break, and birthdays are common times that parents choose in their long distance parenting agreement.
You and your co-parent will need to balance flexibility with consistency and stability. Generally, the long distance parent should be able to expect some flexibility from their co-parent regarding drop-ins, should you happen to be in town and wish to visit with your child. On the flip side, maintaining a consistent schedule is important for children, so you should also keep reasonable expectations: For example, don’t expect that just because you’re in town, your children should skip school to spend time with you.
You’ll need to make more efforts to stay in touch. Long distance parenting may seem like less work because you won’t have as frequent blocks of parenting time, but in many cases, it’s a lot more work. It’ll increase the burden of staying in touch and mean that you need to make more of an effort to communicate with your co-parent, to ensure you stay up-to-date on your child’s daily life, accomplishments, and milestones. In our world of video chat and other virtual tools, Arizona courts also encourage virtual parenting as a supplement, but not a replacement, for blocks of parenting time.
You’ll need to ensure you have a detailed parenting agreement. As with any custody arrangement, long distance parenting requires a detailed and specific parenting agreement to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. In some ways, it’ll be even more important, to ensure the long distance parent doesn’t miss out and to make the arrangement as equitable as possible. Your parenting agreement should specify not just what blocks of parenting time you’ll get, telephone and FaceTime access, whether the child travels alone, who travels with them, and who pays the travel costs.
Long distance parenting can be challenging, but a well-written parenting agreement between two cooperative parents can make it work. Arizona courts generally try to be fair to both parents, but the best way to ensure your parental rights are represented is to hire a family law attorney. Even if this is a readjustment of the original parenting agreement, contact the Simon Law Group today, and we’ll help make sure you remain a central part of your child’s life.