Long-Distance Custody Schedules: Examples, Logistics & Expert Advice

Distance can challenge any relationship. Learn how to make long-distance parenting work and maintain strong connections. Explore different schedules and get expert tips on handling the logistics of long-distance parenting and creating a solid parenting plan.

Inside this article:

What constitutes a long-distance custody schedule?

Co-parents make a long-distance custody schedule when one parent lives far from their child. The schedule outlines when and for how long the child will be with each parent. Usually, the child spends the majority of their time with one parent. 

Long-distance custody schedules are an important part of long-distance parenting plans. Like standard parenting plans, long-distance plans are written agreements that co-parents draft and, in some instances, submit to a court. The goal of the parenting plan is to provide a structured understanding provide clear guidelines on custody, visitation schedules, co-parent responsibilities, and more. Long-distance parenting plans cover everything a standard plan does but also add provisions related to travel, communication, and more. 

The specific distance or situation that constitutes “long distance” varies by jurisdiction. Experts emphasize that distance becomes an issue when the non-residential parent can’t regularly participate in day-to-day parenting because they live far from the children’s primary home. 

Brad Benedetto, a Michigan family law attorney and legal liaison at OurFamilyWizard, explains: “If exercising regular parenting time becomes difficult for one parent because they live far away from the child’s primary home, co-parents may need to create a plan that addresses the complexities associated with long-distance parenting. For example, one key indicator that distance is interrupting normal parenting is when one of the parents can’t routinely bring the child to school.

He adds that beyond practical considerations, certain states have legal mandates regarding long-distance co-parenting.

“Some states mandate a long-distance plan to be approved by the court if the child is moving a certain distance away from their former residence,” he explains. “For example, Michigan has a 100-mile rule. The child’s legal residence cannot be moved more than 100 miles without the other parent’s consent or the court’s permission.” 

Most often, long-distance parenting begins when one parent relocates from the area that both parents lived in before a separation or divorce.

“When a co-parent makes the choice to move out of state, they must weigh the benefits they may receive in their new home against the difficulties of long-distance co-parenting,” Benedetto says. “Of course, other situations can result in long-distance co-parenting. For example, the primary parent might relocate with the child for a job. In many cases, the other parent isn’t willing to or cannot follow.”

Regardless of the circumstances leading to it, a long-distance move significantly changes the co-parenting relationship and can potentially strain relations between the children and the parent who lives far away from the child’s primary residence. It’s important to consider the complexities of long-distance co-parenting in both joint and sole custody arrangements.

"Long-distance parenting definitely has its challenges," notes Brendan Hammer, who is an AAML Fellow, AAML Certified Arbitrator and an experienced family lawyer. "For it to succeed, both co-parents need to be fully dedicated to cooperating and place the child's needs above all else. Beyond that, it’s critical for the long-distance co-parent to be creative and find ways to maintain a strong connection with their child." 

Key Takeaways:

  • Long-distance custody schedules become necessary when one parent lives too far away to regularly engage in day to day parenting.
  • Custom schedules generally work better than standard custody splits.
  • The long-distance co-parent usually gets more parenting time during the summer and three-day weekends.
  • A long-distance plan should address how children travel, who pays expenses, and how the children and long-distance co-parent stay in touch between visits.
  • Experts stress that both parents must focus on the plan’s details and prioritize flexibility and cooperation.
Man buckling his daughter into carseat.

How does long-distance travel affect children?

Long-distance travel can stress children because they leave their homes and friends. However, maintaining a close connection with the distant parent has many benefits. Co-parents need to weigh both aspects when creating a long-distance parenting plan.

Professor Anne-Rigt Poortman, an expert in family sociology at Utrecht University in Utrecht, Netherlands, studied how distance affects the parent-child relationship. In her contribution to the 2021 book Shared Physical Custody, Poortman gives insights from a comprehensive survey involving families in the Netherlands.

Her study uncovered that commuting between homes positively impacts most children when co-parents live nearby. This is because regular interaction with both parents benefits children, and the ease of moving between nearby homes minimizes logistical challenges and helps children remain connected to their school network and friends. However, as the distance between co-parents increases, the positive effects diminish. Travel and being apart from friends begin to impact children negatively.

Her research and related studies emphasize that the impact of distance hinges on the delicate balance between the stress and the benefits.

“Getting creative in these situations can really help ease the negative impacts of travel and ensure a steady relationship between the child and distant co-parent," says Hammer. “To avoid frequent school-year travel, the co-parent can visit or connect with their child virtually.”

He adds: “Spending time together on holidays and vacations near the child's primary home is an option. The distant co-parent can also create a ‘second home.’ While it gets tricky as the child grows older and wants to be with school friends, cooperative co-parents can find a balance that works for everyone. Success depends on minimizing the inevitable downsides of long-distance parenting.”

How different states define “long distance”

Some states define “long-distance” as a certain number of miles that children or co-parent must travel one way. Other states consider whether the distance affects the ability of the long-distance parent and their children to remain in frequent, in-person contact. 

For example, Texas defines long distance as 100 miles away, Ohio says it’s 150 miles, and Florida uses 50 miles. 

In these states, the definition may impact the custody schedules available to non-custodial parents when they meet that distance threshold. Still, many states don’t focus on a specific mile count but rather consider whether the distance hinders the ability of the parent and children to visit frequently. 

These definitions also outline how far a parent who shares joint legal custody can move with their children without court approval. In most states, the primary co-parent cannot move the children more than a certain distance apart without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court. These laws relate to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which regulates custody across state lines and has been adopted and enacted in some form by the majority of US states.

Long-distance custody schedule examples

In a common long-distance schedule, the non-custodial parent has the child for one or two weekends per month. Or, you can have a week-long visit once every two or three months. The ideal schedule considers the child's age, the specific distance, co-parents' availability, and travel expenses. 

“There’s no one-size-fits-all plan in any parenting situation, let alone for long-distance parenting,” Benedetto says. “Usually, the typical custody splits like 50/50 or 60/40 won’t work because they can’t accommodate the complex logistics of traveling. Instead, we typically see schedules where the non-custodial co-parent spends one or two weekends a month with the child and then tries to make up as much ground as they can during holidays and school breaks.”

Hammer agrees: "We can’t prescribe a single schedule for any parenting situation. Co-parents will need to assess their specific circumstances and work together to build strong relationships with their children. Hopefully, both co-parents can experience the full range of parenting experiences, from day-to-day activities to fun weekends and vacations.” 

Here are examples of common long-distance custody schedules. Remember, you can always start with one schedule and later agree to modify it to suit your needs, abilities, and circumstances.

  • Every other weekend 
    The non-custodial parent will have parenting time every other weekend. This schedule allows the non-custodial parent to have regular contact without disrupting the child’s school schedule. This option is also easy to plan around and creates a predictable routine for co-parents and children.

    This schedule creates an 80/20 split, where the primary co-parent has 80% of the parenting time, and the other has 20%.

Every-other-weekend custody schedule

  • Every-weekend schedule
    In this schedule, the long-distance parent has the children every weekend, and the primary parent has the children during the week. This schedule is a variation of the 5-2 schedule and creates a 70/30 split, with the primary parent having 70% of the parenting time and the other parent 30%.

    The every-weekend schedule works well if the children and parent can frequently travel because it doesn’t interrupt the school schedule. It also gives the non-custodial parent more time with the children than many long-distance options, but it means that the primary parent won’t have any weekends with the children. 

    Hammer has personal experience with this schedule.

    “During my time as a long-distance co-parent, I flew from Illinois to Texas every weekend for a year," he shares. "I considered myself fortunate to have the resources to afford such frequent travel. Co-parents with different means may be able to visit more frequently, while others might find it challenging to afford weekend travel consistently. It's about finding what works within your means and making the most out of the time you can spend together."

Every-weekend custody schedule

  • Visit one weekend per month
    Under this schedule, the child visits the non-custodial co-parent one weekend per month. This is a common schedule because it’s not very logistically demanding and doesn’t interrupt the child’s school time. It also reduces time apart from their friends and extracurricular activities. However, it severely limits parenting time for the long-distance co-parent.

    Most co-parents select the same weekend every month to keep a consistent schedule.

One weekend per month custody schedule

  • A week-long visit every 2 or 3 months
    Some non-custodial co-parents might opt to see their child less often in order to spend a longer period together. You can plan a week-long visit every few months if the child isn't in school. Alternatively, you can schedule this visit during a school break.  
  • A weekend visit every other month
    For long-distance parenting that spans a significant distance—between multiple states, for example—the child or co-parent might be able to visit only one weekend every other month. This schedule reduces travel time and cost, but the long-distance parent and the child will see each other for only a few days every few months.

Long-distance custody and holiday schedules

Long-distance custody schedules typically give the non-custodial parent more time during the holidays. For example, many primary parents give the non-custodial parent all the three-day weekends and most of winter and spring breaks. Co-parents typically still split major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Holidays allow the long-distance parent to enjoy more time with their children. However, it’s important to consider that the primary parent will want to spend at least part of the holidays with their children, even if they’re willing to share a significant portion with the long-distance parent. Holidays and vacations offer unique parenting opportunities that are distinct from day-to-day life that no parent wants to miss. 

“Long-distance co-parents can make up a lot of parenting time over the holidays,” says Benedetto. "Typically, the primary parent is willing to compromise on many three-day school holidays to accommodate the non-custodial parent. However, it's uncommon for one co-parent to claim all weekends or holidays. Both parents value spending these occasions with the child, especially since the primary parent spends most of their parenting time during the busy school year. Holidays provide them with the chance to enjoy quality, relaxed moments with the child."

Hammer describes a similar situation: “Many non-custodial parents have precedence for the Monday holidays. But co-parents usually split major holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving or alternate them yearly. It’s important to realize that even though the primary parent sees the children all the time, they have less time when it comes to being together without the pressure of work or school. Parenting is a holistic experience; it’s about balancing quotidian daily life with special occasions. Often, holidays are where your child creates the types of cherished memories that we, as adults, fondly remember from our own childhood.”

Mom and daughter at park.

Long-distance custody and summer schedules

Most long-distance schedules give the non-custodial parent a lot of time in the summer. This can mean that they spend more time with the child in the summer than the primary parent. This helps the long-distance co-parent make up for the time they lost during the year.

“What we typically see is that the non-custodial co-parent gets seven out of the 12 weeks of summer,” explains Hammer. “So, they get a slight majority of the time, with one extra week than the primary co-parent.”

Hammer also recommends that co-parents carefully consider the implications that summer schedules can have on child support. “If the non-custodial co-parent is paying child support, should they have to keep paying during those seven weeks when they have the child?” asks Hammer. “This is an important consideration that many people might not think about when drafting their parenting plan.”

Long-distance visitation schedules by custody arrangement

The traditional 50/50 or 60/40 custody arrangements often pose significant challenges with long-distance parenting. The 80/20 or 70/30 splits are more common. However, depending on the co-parents’ flexibility and the child’s age, it is possible to make many schedules work.

“When two co-parents can come to a flexible agreement about long-distance co-parenting, they usually wind up making a custom schedule that doesn’t fit neatly into the pre-determined splits,” says Hammer. “But sometimes courts or co-parents try to force a 50/50 or 60/40 schedule that won’t work for kids driven by an academic calendar. These schedules, whether it’s 5-2-2-5 or alternating weeks, can sound doable on paper, but they don’t play out well in reality.”

He continues: “Children get sick, snowstorms will cause flight delays, people have unexpected work trips—the list goes on and on. Managing those tight schedules can become stressful, especially when life's complexities and the uncertainties of travel throw unexpected challenges your way. I always recommend that people consider their specific circumstances, be realistic, and try to work together to find creative yet manageable schedules that will work.”

Although long-distance co-parenting usually requires a custom approach, some situations can work with typical custody arrangements.
Here are recommended long-distance visitation schedules for the common custody splits:

  • 50/50 custody split 
    Potential schedules: Alternating weeks or alternating every two weeks
    Considerations: This schedule means that co-parents alternate parenting time every week or every two weeks.

    This schedule is best for young children who don’t attend school and need consistent contact with both parents to form stable relationships. Yet, separation for two weeks or even one week might be stressful for very young children. 

    This split might also work for children in virtual schooling.
  • 60/40 custody split
    Potential schedules: Every extended weekend (a version of the 4-3 schedule)
    Considerations: In the every-extended-weekend schedule, the long-distance parent regularly has the child for three-day weekends.

    Like 50/50, this schedule suits families with a young child who isn’t attending school, or those in virtual schooling. It requires a parent to have a three-day weekend and might involve stress for the children due to frequent travel. Alternatively, the long-distance parent can travel to the child.
  • 70/30 custody split
    Potential schedules: The every-weekend custody schedule (a variation of the 5-2 schedule) or every third week.
    Considerations: In the every-weekend schedule, the long-distance parent and the child spend every weekend together. In the every-third-week schedule, the child spends two weeks with the primary co-parent and the third week with the other parent. 

    Every third week can work well for young children who don’t go to school or for children in virtual school. The every weekend schedule is better for school-aged children and co-parents who can travel or children accustomed to traveling.

    The 80/20 custody schedule is typically the most feasible “standard” co-parenting setup that can work for long-distance co-parenting, even for children in school.
  • 80/20 
    Potential schedules: Assigned weekend¸ every other weekend 

    The assigned-weekend schedule means co-parents can choose which weekend (usually two or three a month) the long-distance co-parent receives custody. This is a common way to approach long-distance schedules.

    The every-other-weekend schedule can also work. The non-residential parent and child spend every other weekend together in this schedule.

Best long-distance custody schedules by age

The child’s age impacts which custody schedule works best. It’s easiest to maintain consistent contact with younger children who aren’t in school. But young school-aged children also thrive with regular communication. Teens usually prefer schedules that limit their time apart from friends. 

Long-distance schedule options for infants

Infants benefit from frequent, shorter periods with each parent to ensure they form secure relationships. The options depend on the long-distance parent’s ability to travel. Some options include the 5-2 rotation or alternating weeks. Shorter intervals between exchanges support better bonding.

Infants need to maintain regular contact with both parents. This helps them form a secure bond and sets the stage for a healthy relationship to come. However, frequent traveling with an infant can be difficult. It’s much easier for the long-distance parent to travel to the child. 

That means that, if possible, co-parents should prioritize creating a balanced split that minimizes the time the infant spends apart from either co-parent. The 4-3 (60/40) and 5-2 (70/30) schedules work well if the co-parent can handle the travel. 

One important consideration is whether the mother is breastfeeding. If so, there might be a medical necessity for her to stay with the infant. In this case, it’s even more important for the other parent to travel to the child for visits. This might require that the non-custodial parent take time off work.

Long-distance schedule options for toddlers

Toddlers benefit from regular contact, just like infants. Again, the schedule options depend on the long-distance parent’s travel ability. Aim for a 70/30 or 60/40 split that reduces the time between exchanges. The 5-2 or the 4-3 are good options, depending on your ability to travel.

Like infants, toddlers aged two or three are still not in school, giving co-parents more schedule options. It’s best to take advantage of this time to see your child as much as possible so they form secure attachments with you and your co-parent.
If possible, the traveling parent can rearrange work and other priorities to ensure they can visit their toddler. In some situations, an alternating-weeks schedule might also be an option.

Long-distance schedule options for school-age children

Long-distance schedules for younger school-age children must accommodate the school schedule and should ensure the child sees both co-parents regularly. Schedule options include every weekend, every other weekend, or every other extended weekend. The parent can supplement this time by traveling to see the child. 

The transition of young children starting school often poses challenges in maintaining regular contact with both parents. A previously manageable 50/50 split, which might have worked during their toddler years, typically becomes impossible under a normal school schedule. However, considering that the child is in the critical phase of forming bonds with both parents, it benefits them to maintain frequent contact with both co-parents.

In this situation, many experts recommend the 5-2 (every-weekend) split, but also acknowledge that managing a long-distance schedule for young, school-age children, like preschoolers, comes with unique challenges.

“It can be challenging to manage the right long-distance schedule for young children who just started school,” Benedetto explains. “It’s a really difficult time. The school schedule limits them, but they’re still young, and it’s important that they see both co-parents to create healthy relationships. On top of that, the child is too young to fly by themselves, and they might be too young to have an attention span for virtual parenting time.”

Benedetto says that one solution is for the long-distance co-parent to take time from work and travel to the child to accommodate the school schedule. “Going to the child in those age groups is much easier than having the child come to you,” he says. “It’s an unfortunate necessity, and many people might be limited by cost and time. But this is a pivotal age, and many co-parents will agree that it’s very important for both co-parents to build a strong relationship with the child.”

Hammer agrees that this time can be difficult and recommends being flexible and creative to find solutions. 

“Young children in school still need to see the long-distance co-parent often,” says Hammer. “But some co-parents don’t like the idea of them traveling so much, especially when they’re in school. To navigate this tricky time, it’s important to be flexible and reasonable. The non-custodial co-parent can travel to the child, for example. That way, they maintain regular contact, but the child also can keep up with school. It might require sacrifices, but you can shift away from this schedule once the child grows older.”

Hammer adds: “Another issue is that some co-parents are attached to the idea that if their child misses a day of kindergarten, MIT is off the table. Having the child miss an occasional day of school so they can spend a long weekend with the other co-parent is a perfectly viable option. In my opinion, having a child miss a few days of kindergarten isn’t a big deal, and the sacrifice is worth helping them develop a secure and meaningful relationship with their long-distance parent.”

Long-distance schedule options for teenagers

Many teens prefer to stay close to their friends, which can conflict with summer long-distance schedules. Co-parents can compromise by accepting less time with their teens or including their teen’s friends in longer visits. School-year schedule options include visiting every other weekend or one weekend each month.

Pre-teens and teenagers can tolerate longer time apart from either of their parents because they’ve already formed close relationships with both of them. School also becomes more demanding, and many get involved in extracurricular activities. Long-distance co-parents often agree to shift toward schedules with less frequent visits to accommodate these changing needs. Some schedule options include visiting one or two weekends a month, over holidays, and during summer break.

However, during this phase, teens may strongly resist spending extended breaks, like summers, away from their primary social circles and friends. This adds an issue for co-parents who might already see them less throughout the year and are looking forward to spending summer with their teen. This can create a conflict where the parent wants to exercise their right to longer visits, but the teen would rather stay home.

“The specific situation really depends on the teenager,” notes Benedetto. “While it’s true that many teens don’t want to be pulled away from their home where they have close-knit friends, a lot of teens might also welcome the break and the change in parenting style. At the end of the day, the co-parent does have the right to exercise that parenting time and can enforce it. It’s always more ideal to find a compromise when there’s a disagreement. Otherwise, you might see the teen, but they might also resent you for potentially forcing the visit.” 

Hammer agrees that dealing with a conflict of desires can be difficult to balance. He advocates that the long-distance parent should try to meet the needs of their teen by integrating their social circle into the visits.

 “Any co-parent that wants to have a healthy relationship with their teen could think about ways to merge their teen’s social hub with their visits,” he says. “A solution might be going on smaller, fun trips that involve the entire social circle. Or the co-parent can travel to the other location for a portion of the summer or holiday. While the approach will differ in each scenario, the key is prioritizing the child's experiences. Normalizing the long-distance co-parent within the child’s familiar social environment will benefit everyone. It will make the teen happy, and they won’t look at their visits as an isolated experience that they have to ‘check off’ their list. Plus, you’ll form a richer experience with your teen if you also meet and interact with their friends and show that their experiences matter to you.” 

Logistics for long-distance co-parenting schedules

Selecting a long-distance schedule requires the consideration of travel logistics. For example, you’ll need to discuss how the child will travel and who will pay for it. These and other considerations will help you determine a realistic schedule.

Long-distance schedules have distinct travel issues that will help determine whether a custody schedule is realistic. Before committing to any schedule, you’ll want to discuss how the child will travel, who will pay, and how you will make the exchange. These considerations will help you choose a schedule that accommodates everyone’s needs.

Here's a breakdown of the major logistical concerns:

  • Type of travel
    Determine how the child will travel between the parents’ homes. You’ll want to select the most suitable mode of transportation that provides the child with a safe and comfortable means of traveling. Assess the child’s age, travel regulations, costs, and the distance between the co-parents’ homes to find a suitable travel method.
  • Co-parent visiting the child
    Consider whether the non-custodial parent can visit the child in the custodial parent’s location. If so, outline specific guidelines like where the parent and child will stay and who will pay for any expenses. 
  • Expenses
    It’s critical to clarify who is responsible for travel expenses related to transportation, accommodation, and other costs. Most experts recommend that co-parents consult an attorney or other expert when allocating expenses.

    "Who pays for what is one of the most important aspects to cover,” notes Hammer. “The decision-making process is not uniform across jurisdictions or judges. Expenses can be quite detailed, from deciding if the traveling co-parent will need to rent a car to specifying the type of car they can rent. When allocating expenses, most judges and attorneys will examine the reason for the distance, the financial standing of both co-parents, any child support considerations, and more.”

    He notes that sorting out finances will also illuminate whether your proposed custody schedule is possible. “It’s crucial to be realistic. There's no point in planning frequent visits if you can’t afford to make it happen.” 
  • Exchanges
    Choosing the location for parenting time exchanges is very important. Benedetto notes that "most co-parents will try to meet somewhere in the middle. In any case, be sure to visualize what exchanges will look like and how demanding they will be. Remember, exchanging for long-distance visits is a lot more time-consuming and involved than just dropping the child off at school."

    Benedetto adds, "Most co-parents try to avoid sending their children on flights due to cost barriers. Co-parents that want to send their child on a flight can explore services that help minors fly.”
  • Communication between co-parent and child
    Maintaining a connection with the child is vital for the long-distance parent. "The long-distance co-parent might want to check in with the kids on a daily basis, depending on their age,” says Benedetto. “Reading them a bedtime story, keeping tabs on school, and having those day-to-day updates are important for the distant co-parent to stay actively involved in the child’s life."

    Virtual visitation can be a great way to stay in touch outside the limited in-person parenting time. Determine how frequently the child and parent will communicate, and create guidelines for virtual visits.
  • Communication between co-parents
    Managing long-distance co-parenting will come with its share of headaches and potential conflicts. You’ll want to establish a clear, transparent way to communicate.

    “Managing distance is tough, because in most cases both co-parents feel like they’re missing out on the full spectrum of parenting,” says Hammer. “The primary parent might feel like they don’t get as much holiday or weekend time, and the long-distance co-parent might feel like they’re missing out on the day-to-day living. These types of feelings are normal and inevitable, but it’s important that you always maintain a child-centric point of view.”

    He adds: “You want to make sure everyone’s ship is sailing in the same direction. It’s important to keep each other apprised with respect to your work, travel, and parenting schedules.”

    A co-parenting app can help co-parents maintain a shared calendar and communicate via a secure messaging platform.
  • Important events
    If there are significant events you don't want to miss, such as a soccer game or recital, Hammer suggests incorporating these specific days into the plan well in advance.

    "Co-parents value important events related to school or even related to a routine doctor's check-up,” Hammer says. “Whenever possible, thoughtful co-parents can make sure they can visit during some of these events. This helps keep the co-parent visible in normal day-to-day life and gives them the opportunity to form a relationship with the people in their child’s life, like teachers, doctors, or coaches.” 

Creating a long-distance parenting plan

Creating a long-distance parenting plan means considering special factors not included in standard parenting plans. For example, you must outline travel schedules, methods, and financial responsibilities. Also, you’ll plan how the child and long-distance parent will stay in touch between visits.

The goal of any parenting plan is to support the child’s best interests. Specific guidelines will help prevent conflict and create a healthier co-parenting dynamic. 

"Long-distance parenting plans demand an even higher attention to detail than normal," explains Hammer. "You and your attorney need to foresee various scenarios specific to long-distance parenting. It's crucial to leave no stone unturned. Choosing to ignore details that might seem frivolous or overly specific will come back to haunt you in the future. Whether it's handling delayed flights or establishing the platform for scheduling virtual calls, think about every possibility and make a plan for it."

Here are expert tips on creating a long-distance parenting plan that will last:

  • Prioritize flexibility and communication
    “Long-distance co-parenting works well when both co-parents are equally committed and flexible,” says Hammer. “Things will come up, and it’s important for both co-parents to be ready to roll with the punches. For example, the child might need to cancel a trip because of a school-related issue, or the co-parent may experience a flight delay and miss an entire day. You’ll be able to navigate those issues best if everyone approaches unpredictable situations with empathy and understanding.” 
  • Be child-centric and creative
    Hammer says any parenting plan requires a child-centric view, but long-distance parenting demands that you think outside the box.

    "One creative idea is exploring the possibility of taking vacations together as a family if both co-parents are open to it,” Hammer says. “The more flexible and imaginative you are, the greater the chances of finding small ways to incorporate meaningful family and co-parenting time into both of your lives."

    Some co-parents opt for year-round schools, which are common in certain regions of the country. Year-round schools include more frequent breaks that last a week or two but don’t have a long summer break. These schedules work well for long-distance co-parenting as they offer more frequent opportunities for the child to spend time with the other co-parent.
  • Be as detailed as possible and include a solution for everything
    “Approach your parenting plan with a scalpel,” says Hammer. “Be precise, and take the time to create a thorough plan that outlines clear guidelines for every situation. This creates an enduring plan that saves you time and reduces stress. Even if some aspects may seem unnecessary or theoretical at first, addressing them ahead of time can prevent potential litigation down the road."

    Some important aspects of planning include travel options, holidays and summers, expenses, and how to deal with “make-up time” if travel delays change the schedule. 

Easiest way to create and track long-distance custody schedules

Co-parenting is hard, especially at a distance. OurFamilyWizard helps to bridge the gap. Co-parents use this app to share a calendar, make a schedule change if travel snafus occur, and have virtual visits all on the same platform. 

Achieving a perfect balance in long-distance co-parenting may not be possible, but OurFamilyWizard empowers both parents to be involved in their child’s life despite the distance. With the Calls feature, you can connect with your child or co-parent in a more secure way. Every video or audio call in the app is thoroughly documented, providing transparency for both parents about when calls took place. 

Plus, with both parents using OurFamilyWizard’s Calendar, everyone will know the next travel date. In the app, you can schedule travel, discuss any issues, and make sure that everything goes smoothly so you can enjoy precious time with your child.

Long-distance custody schedule FAQs

Explore frequently asked questions that co-parents have about long-distance custody. Find out what to do if a child refuses to travel or a co-parent moves to another country. Get answers to these and other common questions.

How can we ensure regular communication between the child and non-residential parent?

Create a structured schedule for phone calls or online chats between the non-residential parent and the child. You can detail when they’ll interact, for how long, and how. Incorporate this section into your long-distance parenting plan so everyone knows what to expect.

Who pays children’s travel expenses?

Co-parents typically share the travel costs, but the specific splits vary by circumstance. Consider aspects like custody arrangements and each co-parent’s finances to determine the respective co-parents' contributions. The goal is to split the expenses fairly. Co-parents usually include a section on travel expenses in their parenting plan.

What if a child refuses to travel?

If a child refuses to travel, the parents should communicate with the child to understand their perspective and find a solution. Co-parents must be sensitive to the child’s needs. Also, be flexible if the child’s behavior disrupts the normal custody schedule.

How do you handle flight cancellations and flight changes?

Flight cancellations or changes are unpredictable. If this happens, notify the other parent immediately and consider rescheduling options. Make sure to keep records of any additional expenses. Above all, prioritize the child’s well-being.

Can the long-distance schedule change as the child gets older?

Yes, changing long-distance custody schedules is common when children get older. Young children don’t have to go to school and must have regular contact with both co-parents. As children grow, most co-parents adopt schedules where children spend less time with the non-custodial parent.

What happens if a long-distance co-parent moves closer?

Co-parents can discuss changing their custody schedule and parenting plan to accommodate the new distance. For example, a new plan could give the non-custodial parent more time with the child.  It’s best to consult a mediator or legal counsel to discuss options.

What happens if a co-parent moves to a different country?

If a co-parent moves to a different country, it will significantly impact custody. Get legal advice to adapt the parenting plan and discuss international travel logistics. The focus remains on protecting the child’s well-being and maintaining their relationship with the non-custodial co-parent.

Danielle Kestnbaum, JD, MSW
Author's Bio:

Danielle earned her law degree with honors from IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to graduating from law school, she received her Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York City and a BA from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Danielle externed with the Chief Judge of the Domestic Relations Court for the Circuit Court of Cook County during law school. She has worked in the public sector as a child’s advocate and also in the private sector representing parents in a broad range of family law matters.

She currently works as a professional liaison for the OurFamilyWizard website and serves as the Vice President of the North Carolina Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.