Child custody issues are often fraught with difficulty for everybody involved. Recently, we discussed what factors courts look at if a parent wants to relocate with a child after divorce. Now let’s look at one of the things that parents have to manage if they are living a long distance from their child.
Whether your co-parent moved with your child or you had to move away from them for work or other reasons, remaining an integral part of your child’s life when you primarily see them over a screen can be challenging. It requires planning and the support of your co-parent – particularly if your child is still very young.
Developing and codifying a plan
You’ll need a long-distance communication plan for “virtual visitation.” You may just include this as a modification to your original parenting plan. The important thing is to codify it in a legal document approved by a judge so you and your co-parent are clear on the requirements and the potential consequences of violating it.
Having a plan in place before the move occurs can help prevent confusion and conflict, let everyone adjust their schedules accordingly and – most important – give your child needed assurance that you will remain close to them, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of miles away you may be.
You can make the communications plan as detailed or broad as you choose. However, you’ll likely at least want to at least specify the following:
- How often you’ll contact your child
- What time(s) of the day – noting both time zones if applicable – you’ll contact them
- How the communication will be done (for example, FaceTime, Skype or phone call)
- Whether the co-parent who’s with the child can be part of the communication (which may be necessary, depending on the child’s age)
It’s also wise to include language about notifications of the other co-parent if a scheduled communication can’t take place, the reasons for canceling a scheduled call and how soon a missed call must be rescheduled. A parent should never deny their child virtual visitation with their other parent as a form of punishment.
Whether you need to add a long-distance communication plan to your parenting agreements, you need to modify the one you have or your co-parent is interfering with your rights to see and talk with your child, having experienced legal guidance to rely on is always the best way to help you protect your relationship with your child.