Creating a parenting plan is complicated. There are so many decisions to make, often down to the most minute details. When you include a long distance between parents, your plan becomes even more complex. If you and your former spouse live far apart, here are some things to consider in your parenting plan.
California splits custody among parents using percentages. For example, one parent has the children 75% of the time, and the other takes them for the remaining 25%.
Achieving a completely equal, 50/50 split custody is difficult at the best of times. Just creating a workable schedule is hard. There is an equal number of weeks in a year, 52, but not an equal number of days, 365. You must consider how to split your time, as parents will have children on both weekdays and weekends. This means factoring in school, extracurricular activities, church, and any other part of your kids’ busy lives. Even at a close distance, it’s probably more practical to give one parent a majority percentage of custody.
When parents are at a long distance from one another, 50/50 custody may be impossible. At only 20 or more miles apart, California courts consider parents at a “long distance.” To achieve a reasonable plan, at least one parent must make sacrifices, taking a smaller percentage of custody.
In the best-case scenario, both parents need immediate access to emergency care. If you are the parent with a lower percentage of custody, map the emergency services in your area for use when needed.
For children with special healthcare needs, the distant parent must be prepared. They need the proper supplies on hand in the appropriate amounts. The home may need to be modified for accessibility as well.
The distant parent needs access to reliable healthcare. Perhaps you keep the children during the summer. In that months-long stretch, a child with special medical needs may need check-ups and treatment. Since you won’t have access to their regular doctor, you must build a relationship with one close to your area. You must explain their position; they are the secondary physician. You may need to help coordinate records, as the two doctors will likely wish to share information. Consistency is important, so don’t shuffle around new specialists each summer.
How you handle long-distance education is highly dependent on your custody schedule. For instance, if you have the kids for the summer, education may be a non-issue, except for the occasional summer reading assignment. Weekend parenting, however, could be marked with homework assignments and school drop-offs on Monday morning. Make sure, as the distant parent, you are prepared to tackle these tasks.
If you are at a closer distance with a higher degree of custody, you must meticulously plan your time. Busses may not run to your area, so you need a reliable, consistent way of getting the kids to school and back on time. Kids tend to thrive in a predictable environment, and you don’t need your joint custody adding chaos to their lives.
If juggling the kids on a closer custody percentage is untenable, remember that you always have visitation rights. We often think of visitation as physical, but phone calls and video chats can be included in your parenting plan. You can create a specific schedule that designates days and times for these chats, keeping you in contact with your little ones.
Once this schedule is put in writing, it becomes part of your official, court-approved plan. The other parent cannot block you from this scheduled chat time. If you are having trouble with a former spouse robbing you of visitation rights, speak with an attorney.
Moving Further Away
Life takes us in surprising directions, and sometimes, that means further away from our children. If either you or your ex moves, it’s time to renegotiate the parenting plan. Here are some ways to create a new plan.
Fortunately, you and your former partner always have the option to create your own parenting plan. You can work out the details on your own, put them in writing, and submit them to the court. Once approved, the plan is official. If you choose this path, we recommend you run your plan by a legal professional who can help catch any details you missed.
For many, however, working together is difficult. They may need another option for creating a new plan.
Returning to Court
If you and your ex cannot negotiate without a fight, you may have to take the matter to court. We recommend you avoid this option if possible. Court is costly and time-consuming. No matter the outcome, the situation is ultimately out of your control. Someone else makes the decisions, and you must obey them. If you and your ex could manage co-parenting up to this point, you may be able to work together while still seeking legal help.
When you and your ex both want what’s best for the child, but you know negotiations are difficult, consider mediation. A good mediator can help keep everyone cool while advancing the conversation. They can get everyone listening and working together. As legal professionals, they can also help ensure you don’t miss any important details. By working together, you won’t be at the mercy of the courts. Any decisions you make will be agreed upon, giving you power over the situation.
If you need help creating or modifying a long-distance parenting plan, call us for a free consultation. Our number is (949) 558-2624, and you can reach us online.