Divorce isn’t easy. There’s no doubt about that. There’s also no question that of all the issues that a couple confronts during the divorce process, child custody is by far one of the most emotionally difficult and complex. This can be even more true when one parent relocates to another state. While distance can make custody issues more complicated, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to work through the situation and find ways to ensure that you are still looking out for and serving the best interests of your children, regardless of the miles between you.
First Things First – Considering Your Custody Arrangement
First, it’s important to address the question of whether or not your co-parent is already out-of-state. If one parent relocated at the time of separation or shortly thereafter and before the time that the divorce process was initiated, then the custody agreement or court-ordered custody arrangement may already address the fact that one parent lives in a different state than the other.
In some circumstances, however, the existing custody agreement was made when both parents lived in the same city or state, and its terms are based upon those circumstances. If that is the case, and one parent subsequently wishes to relocate to an out-of-state location, that parent will need to seek a modification of the existing custody arrangement. Depending upon the type of custody arrangement that the parties have in place, there are typically two ways to do this:
- Discuss the relocation with the other parent and come to an agreement: More often than not, couples today are choosing to address the vast majority of issues they confront in the divorce process outside of the courtroom. This means sitting down with their attorneys, negotiating the issues, finding resolutions, and documenting them in a written agreement that both parties sign. If this is a case, then modifying the agreement is also usually a matter of negotiating and agreeing upon whatever modifications might be necessary with your co-parent. If the two of you can do that and a modified agreement can be drafted, that is usually the ideal situation. In some circumstances, however, either because no agreement can be reached, or because the parties did not negotiate their own agreement in the first place, involvement of the court may be necessary.
- Seek modification from the court: Generally, if a court issues an order in a divorce case, then any modification of the order that may be needed must also come from the court. Courts will typically only modify an existing custody order if a substantial change in circumstances can be shown, and if doing so is in the best interest of the child.
Ultimately, regardless of whether custody issues were determined by agreement, or by the court, it is essential that the parent seeking to relocate modify the agreement before relocating the children. Not doing so can create complex legal issues, and even subject the relocating parent to criminal penalties. While the legal process can be tedious, it’s essential to follow the correct procedures, as not doing so could ultimately make matters far more difficult than necessary for everyone involved.
Cooperative Co-Parenting Across the Miles
Co-parenting isn’t always easy. After all, most people who decide to divorce do so, at least in large part, because their relationship simply isn’t working anymore. Sometimes, a split can be amicable when both parties realize it’s for the best, but in other cases, especially if one party really didn’t want the divorce or if there has been some sort of marital misconduct, emotions may be running high. As a result, it’s understandable that the idea of continuing to communicate and cooperate with an ex may not be particularly appealing to many people during a divorce.
While this is understandable, it’s important to do all that you can, and as soon as possible, to work through those emotions and put them aside when necessary to do what’s best for your children. After all, divorce may mean that you’re no longer a married couple, but to your children, you’ll always be parents – and you’ll always be needed. That’s why thinking through how to co-parent successfully and making every effort to be the best co-parents you can is so important.
In recognizing that co-parenting is important, it’s also important to recognize that it is not without its challenges, even when two parents live fairly close to one another. These difficulties can definitely be increased by distance – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make it manageable. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Consider your custody arrangement: In most long-distance co-parenting relationships, physical custody is a very important aspect to consider. While arrangements like alternating weeks at each parent’s home may not be practical, there are many other arrangements to consider that still give the children ample time at each parent’s home. It’s well worth the effort to work with your spouse toward finding a custody schedule that works for you, and for your children, as time together is essential for relationship-building and bonding.
- Continually make the effort to communicate and connect: While there may be many miles between you, in today’s digitally connected world, it is easier than ever to communicate across those miles. Even if one parent is on the other side of the country, picking up the phone, or turning on the computer means that you can be connected in seconds. Make the effort and carve out the time daily for children to connect with the parent they aren’t physically with – even when it might mean cutting other things out of the schedule. There’s ultimately no time more valuable than the time you spend together, and it’s worth the effort of trying to communicate, connect, and listen every day.
- Cooperate with your co-parent: The importance of this factor in successful co-parenting can’t be overstated. Working cooperatively and communicating openly with your co-parent will make all the difference in the success of your long-distance parenting efforts. Even though you are in different homes in different places, you can still work together to create similar routines and day-to-day structure for your children. Children thrive on consistency, and the good news is that it is possible to create consistency even across the miles. It’s also important to be certain to include your co-parent in major decisions about your children’s lives, and that you stay on the same page as must as possible about the things that truly matter most to your children. Doing so is well worth the effort.
Call The Law Office of Dustin McCrary Today
We hope that these helpful tips will give parents hope about creating custody arrangements and making co-parenting efforts that are successful and helpful for your children and your family, even when there is great physical distance between you. While it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious when confronting any custody issue, the good news is that there are ways to take a difficult situation and make it less so. There are ways to work through the difficult aspects of this process and find solutions that are manageable and meaningful to all involved. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help you do exactly that.
Attorney Dustin McCrary knows divorce. He has dedicated his career to helping clients just like you work through the difficulties of divorce smoothly and successfully and put their feet on a path toward a bright new chapter. He would love to do the same for you. If you’re faced with difficult child custody issues or any other aspect of the divorce process that seems overwhelming, call The Law Office of Dustin McCrary. There’s no day like today to move forward toward a better, brighter future.