Life can take you in many unexpected directions. No matter how badly you want to stay rooted, circumstances may force you to move. This relocation complicates matters when you share custody of your children, especially when the move is long-distance.
Such a move raises legitimate, important questions about parenting. How much authority will the long-distance parent retain? How will you handle visitation and direct possession? Is it even necessary to make changes, or can you still follow the original parenting plan?
If either you or your former spouse moves a long distance away, you must revisit your parenting plan. Keeping your child’s best interests in mind, you may be forced to renegotiate your entire plan, from decision-making powers to custody itself.
How Far Away is a “Long-Distance” Parent?
Many states don’t have an official designation for long-distance parenting. They simply consider distance as one of many factors that influence the parenting plan.
Florida, however, has an official distance. If parents live 50 or more miles apart, they must use the state’s Long-Distance Parenting Plan.
What Is in Florida’s Parenting Plan?
The state’s long-distance parenting plan is quite detailed. It covers many scenarios, leaving very little to chance.
Here are just some of the parenting responsibilities it assigns.
Authority Over Certain Decisions
The law is mostly concerned with which parent has final say over healthcare and educational matters. Parents can also include any other decisions they find important. For instance, they could add entertainment choices, dietary restrictions, and so forth.
These decisions can be split, with one parent making decisions in one area, and the other parent focusing on another. Authority can be shared equally among parents, or it can all go to just one person.
In the parenting plan’s language, parents can have:
- Shared Parental Responsibility
- Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision Making Authority
- Sole Parental Responsibility
These powers apply to all necessary decisions.
Responsibility for Extracurricular Activities
The plan accounts for which parent has approval authority over these activities. It also designates which parent pays for these activities, who handles transport to and from, and so on.
Having physical possession of the children is far more complicated when parents are far apart. You must work closely with your ex to negotiate a fair, reasonable plan. If you cannot work together, the court will have to make a ruling for you.
Long-distance custody can take the form of weekends or extended breaks. Many parents prefer to send the kids to the long-distance parent for summer break.
The parenting plan also has a section specifically for holiday schedules. Parents can choose to alternate major holidays, swapping custody annually.
The plan also considers holidays that move around the calendar. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, for example, are different every year. Parents can choose to be flexible with these days. For example, Mother’s Day may fall on a weekend normally reserved for the father. He can agree to relinquish the kids for that weekend to accommodate. Alternately, parents can opt to stick with the plan rigidly, regardless of which holidays come and go.
The parenting plan accounts for long-distance travel as well. It specifically assigns roles to parents regarding the method of travel, who pays for the travel, and so on.
Since the long-distance parent cannot see the kids as often, the plan also allows parents to create a communication schedule. This portion of the plan blocks off specific days and times for parents to talk to their kids. Communication can be through phone, video chats, and so on.
Legally, these scheduled chats are as serious as physical visitation. They cannot be blocked, and if the other parent does so, they can suffer legal consequences.
The plan also creates specific punishments for missing dates, being late for pick-ups and drop-offs, and more. Florida takes this written plan seriously, and it will swiftly penalize any parent who ignores or disobeys it.
Creating Your Long-Distance Parenting Plan
If you leave the plan up to the courts, you could be forced into agreements that are unrealistic or unfair. In the best-case scenario, parents can create this plan together. When they have a hard time working together, they should consider mediation.
Meditation is a process where you meet with a neutral legal professional who helps you negotiate. These professionals have psychological training. They can keep conversations moving, and they can help cool heated exchanges. When working with a mediator, parents ultimately agree to everything together. This keeps decision-making power in their hands and away from the courts.
If you need help with your long-distance parenting plan, reach out to our firm today. We can offer you a free consultation, so call (407) 753-4111 or contact us online.