Considerations for Long Distance Custody Agreements
Social scientists widely espouse the idea that a child enjoys a healthier life, both during the formative years and as an adult, with the presence of two parents while growing up. Ideally, both parents remain married and in the same house with the child, but when circumstances create separation, extra resources including time and money must be spent on rearing children in order to minimize the possible negative effects.
A primary consideration is cost. Travel expenses are necessary to maintain the presence of the non-custodial parent but can add up and put a strain on working budgets. Children who are too young to travel alone will require the extra expense of a chaperone or a parent to ride or fly along. Extended visits such as an entire summer break from school can involve substantial costs such as food, medical expenses, activities, clothing, shoes, and day care. Medical insurance plans might not travel as well as children and could involve non-member fees. Decisions regarding payment for these and other expenses must be made in advance in order to avoid unnecessary legal intervention and delays. Non-paying parents with regards to these essentials might lose custody rights, visitation rights, and credibility with a judge.
Get It in Writing
A good long distance custody agreement will outline a schedule for the percentage of payment for all expenses, including those with remote possibility such as emergency room visits. Parents requesting visits might be required to demonstrate the ability to pay for the needs of the child for the duration of the stay. Parents wishing to deny an extended stay might utilize a lack of this ability on the part of the other parent in court.
Long distance custody agreements should address parental responsibility for events and activities including those that repeat, such as birthdays; those that are flexible, such as music lessons; and one-time events such as a Bar Mitzvah.
Of course, visitation schedules should be expressly stated in an agreement in order to be enforceable, predictable, and manageable.
The Spirit of the Agreement
When both parents agree upon essential custodial elements arising out of a separation, children are saved from observing contention between parents. A written contract predicting and scheduling all responsibilities prevents this type of conflict. Unfulfilled or unfunded performance of agreements can cause denial of basic child needs, which should be at the heart of the agreement. While any reasonable custodial arrangement must consider the abilities and lifestyle of each parent, the needs of the child must outweigh the convenience of the parents. A well-crafted custody agreement creates a balance between the requirements of the child and those of the separated parents, but does not compromise the child.
If you are involved in a separation with the other parent of your child involving either current or future long distance, protect your rights, assert your parenthood, and ensure the best environment for the precious child at stake. Contact or call the family lawyers at the Law Office of Stanley E. Robison Jr. at (812) 945-3055 for a confidential consultation.