How to handle joint custody after relocation

When you get divorced, you might believe that all arrangements are done once the process is finalized. While this may be true for a time, major life changes can create a need to adjust your parenting plan. One of the biggest disruptions is a move, especially if that move is to a location more than one hour away. While you will most likely not have to go through an extensive trial to amend your custody agreement, it is a good idea to hire an attorney to help you and your co-parent negotiate the new terms for time with your children.

When determining long-distance schedules, there are many factors to consider, outlined below.

Age of the child

The first influence will be the child’s age. Psychology Today recommends that divorced parents do not live more than one hour apart from each other until their youngest child is at least two to three years old. Studies have shown that kids under this age lack the cognitive development to understand what is happening and to develop a close relationship with the absent parent.

While remaining close during the baby years would be ideal, many people cannot control where their job or other obligations take them. If you need to move while your child is young, try to keep as connected as possible through phone and video calls, and emails later on as they get older. You can include a regular communication schedule within your parenting plan if you’re worried your ex won’t honor a routine phone call or Skype chat session.

School location

If your children are in school, you will probably want to develop a new plan that allows them to stay at one house during the time they are in school. It’s possible the children may want to leave with the moving parent and start at a new school, but it will be up to parents to negotiate an arrangement that preserves the best interests of the children. In contested cases, a judge may need to get involved. When deciding on the new parenting plan where the child is moving farther away, arrangements can be made for the child to spend school holidays with the other parent. This could include summer vacation, Christmas, Thanksgiving, spring and fall breaks. Since this could make it tricky to determine holiday time, it is important for a professional to be involved to help protect your parental interests when it comes to sharing holidays.

Child’s best interest

Above all, the child’s well-being is what matters in these cases. This factor should override all others and be considered carefully during what can be an emotional time in his or her life.

If you or your ex-spouse has decided to relocate, contact an attorney today. An experienced legal professional can guide you as you determine a new parenting plan that fits your new circumstances.