Out of State Visitation Schedules

Little boy reaches for the light above him while seated on an airplane.

Co-parenting after a divorce is hard when you and your co-parent live in different states. It will be tough for everyone involved, but if the move means less time with your children, adjusting will be especially difficult for you.

Out of state visitation schedules are not easy plans to create for several reasons. They require more advanced planning than typical co-parenting set-ups, can be a source of significant expense, and often have very difficult adjustment periods. Because of these complications, parents must expend a great deal of effort to create a plan that accommodates their children's needs.

Do you both agree to the move?

If you and your co-parent have joint legal custody of your children, you both have a say in important decisions about your children's upbringing, including where they live. 

Most states have strict laws dictating when a parent who is planning on relocating must notify the other parent or persons with custodial rights. Pennsylvania, for example, requires the relocating parent to notify the other involved parties at least 60 days before their planned move. Be sure to check with a lawyer in your area to ensure you're giving everyone involved enough time to respond to the proposed move. 

If a parent does not agree with the proposal, courts in most states require the relocating parent to show that the proposed move would be of significant benefit to the child. Some states also require the relocating parent to prove the proposal is being made in good faith, meaning without malicious intent or for the purpose of revenge or retaliation

The courts hold the best interests of the children above all else, so the co-parent who is planning to move must make a clear and convincing case that the move is necessary. If the courts decide the move would not be of benefit to the children, they may change the parenting schedule in a way that allows the children to reside primarily with the parent who isn't relocating.

When deciding if a move is in the best interests of a child, the judge may consider questions like the following:

  • How will the relocation affect the quality of life of the child and moving parent?
  • Will the move have negative consequences for the child's emotional/developmental well-being?
  • Can the relocating parent be expected to comply with parenting time granted to the other parent?

Plan any necessary updates to your parenting agreement

Since this will likely be the first time you've co-parented from separate states, you may not be able to anticipate every single scenario. However, you should be able to come up with a plan for addressing big-ticket items, such as your new parenting schedule, how children will be transported between their homes, and contact between parents and children while they are apart.

Depending on the distance, frequent visits between co-parents may not be convenient or possible. In these cases, many co-parents decide to split visitation between the school year and the child’s breaks from school such as Summer vacation or Spring break.

You should also be utilizing tools such as video chats, email, and phone calls if your out of state visitation schedule does not allow for frequent visits.

Another important aspect of your child custody agreement is the splitting of your shared expenses. Traveling expenses can add up quickly depending on the distance your child will need to travel between homes. These expenses should not typically fall to just one co-parent. An agreement must be made beforehand and included into the custody and visitation agreement so that you and your co-parent are both obligated to stick to the agreement.