Tips for Long-Distance Timesharing/Custody Schedules

Theoretically, co-parenting following a divorce should be as equal as possible, but the situation takes a twist when the parents are living long-distance from each other. How do they adopt a fair parenting plan

Factors that Impact Long-Distance Parenting

Each long-distance situation is different. Some of the issues are:

  1. The children’s ages, as well as their maturity level. A toddler or young child will likely not react well to having its routine disrupted by switching homes on a regular basis, while a teenager can probably fly from one home to the other on his or her own.
  2. The distance between the two homes. A long car ride to transport the children once a month might be doable for many parents. However, monthly visits involving monthly flights may not be feasible from a practical standpoint.
  3. Finances factor into the cost of flights. Are monthly tickets logically affordable? Who will pay for them?
  4. Some children, even older ones, do not react well to frequent changes in routine. A young child may get confused, while an older child may resent having the leave friends and familiar activities while being “forced” to shift between homes.

What is Involved in a Long-Distance Parenting Plan

  1. Communication between the two households is critical. This can include phone, internet, email, video, and other sources. This strengthens the connection between all members of the family. Children may enjoy the lost art of sending postcards. 
  2. Parents must agree on how often the children communicate with the other parent and create a schedule. The schedule should be flexible enough to permit for an unplanned call or video to discuss a test that was passed or a game that was won. What should not happen is for the distant parent to call exactly at bedtime while the hosting parent refuses the call. This is playing games and is not in the best interest of the children.  
  3. Communication between the parents is as important as communication between child and parent. What is the plan for the parents to update each other on matters relating to the child, such as if the child got into a fight, acted up, or showed initiative by clearing up a mess? Should these matters be communicated by phone or email? How often?  
  4. Parents need to prepare for a long-distance visit. How often should these occur? Who will pay the transportation cost? How long will the child remain with the non-custodial parent? This can change from the school year to vacation time. Parents also need to discuss how far ahead to schedule a trip to avoid last-minute hassles, delays, or “whoops, there weren’t any available flights.”
  5. Holidays are a crucial sticky point in long-distance timesharing. If there is a substantial distance between the homes, one parent will likely miss one out on celebrations. Parents should agree to switch off on alternate years or different holidays. If the children are transported by car, who will pick up/deliver them, and who will pay for gas?

State of Florida Long-Distance Plan

Long-distance time sharing can differ from state to state. In the State of Florida, a distance of 50 miles or greater from the Court’s jurisdiction is considered a long distance. Whether that distance is intrastate or out-of-state is irrelevant.

This Plan will include:

  1. Parental decision-making responsibility. The responsibility can be shared equally, or, one parent can do the decision-making in certain instances. When a parent has sole decision-making authority in a particular circumstance, different areas of concern can be split between them. For example, a parent who is a teacher can make the education decisions, and if the other parent is a doctor, he or she can make the healthcare decisions. It’s a mix-and-match type of plan. 
  2. The time-sharing plan will also include extracurricular activities. Parents can have joint or sole responsibility for agreeing on the child’s activities and which parent pays for what.
  3. Scheduling time for the child to spend with each parent is a major part of the plan. This includes holiday visits, vacations, weekends, etc. The plan can specify that Mom has the children Thanksgiving while dad has them over Christmas, or the parents alternate each year.

In an ideal world, both parents will agree on the details of the plan. If that does not happen, an impartial third party, such as a mediator, can work with the parents and help them communicate.

The court must approve a long-distance timesharing schedule. If any needed changes are not communicated to the other parent (such as, “Junior is ill and can’t make it this weekend.”), the Florida court will hold the non-communicative parent responsible.


Long-distance parenting becomes complicated because of the many variables (traffic, time of flights, etc.) involved. Depending on the ages of the children, this can continue for many years. This means the age and capabilities of the children involved will change, and the time-sharing plan may need to be reviewed and adjusted periodically. The one thing that will not change is that the needs of the children will invariably come first.

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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