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How does distance between residences impact parenting time?

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2022 | Child Custody

When Arizona couples divorce and there are children from the marriage, child custody and parenting time are prominent issues in the case. Even after it is settled and one parent has been granted custody and the other receives reasonable time with the child, other factors can complicate the situation. If, for example, a parent moves far from the other parent, it can make it harder to adhere to the agreement. Parental relocation is part of this, but it might just involve a noncustodial parent who moves to a different area for a job, to be closer to relatives or for a new romantic relationship. Like many aspects of family law, this can be complicated. Despite that, it does not need to decline into outright acrimony. To reach a reasonable agreement, it is important to remain levelheaded and think about the child’s best interests. Of course, it is also vital to be aware of the law.

Key factors with long-distance parenting

When parents live more than 100 miles apart, the long-distance parenting rules will be in focus. If the custodial parent wants to move with the child, it must be in the child’s best interests and there must be a good faith effort to foster a relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent. That includes maintaining regular contact and parenting time. When there is a long-distance situation, the parents can come to an agreement on their own as to how parenting time is handled or a judge can do it. It is generally preferable for the parents to be invested in keeping a positive relationship between all parties and negotiating a settlement. Still, in some cases, there is discord and they cannot find common ground.

The distance can be problematic but workable if the parents are agreeable. The noncustodial parent must still have frequent and substantial time with the child. For example, if the distance makes it difficult to adhere to the type of plan that would be in effect if they lived closer together with a parent having the child every weekend, then the distance could lead to extended time during the summer and on school holidays. It is advisable that the parents set aside at least four “blocks” of parenting time. They can work this out on their own or can use a template based on the seasons of the year. The driving distance will be a mitigating factor in this. If it is around 100 miles away, then it will not take as long to travel back and forth if will be if it is double and triple that.

Costs can also be addressed in the child support agreement. Since it will likely cost more to travel when paying for gas, potentially losing time at work and other financial outlays, the agreement can be altered to sufficiently compensate the party who is losing money they would not have lost with a closer living situation. As with the parenting time, it is preferable if the parents agree to this on their own, but the courts can also alter the support agreement to address it.

Having advice can help with addressing long-distance custody and parenting time

Even if the parents are on reasonably good terms, that can be quickly undone if there is a dispute over the living distance and how the custody and parenting time agreement will be adjusted. These cases need not be contentious. However, it is wise for the parents to be protected and be aware that the child’s needs should come first. To make certain that a parenting time agreement and other family law considerations are accounting for the distance the parents live from each other, having assistance is vital from the start.