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By Any Means Necessary: Making an Interstate Child Custody Plan Work

When you have to come to terms with the fact that either you or your former spouse may be moving to another state, your first concern is likely your children. Co-parenting after a divorce can seem challenging enough, but how do you make it work when you’re co-parenting from different states?

Interstate parenting agreements are a very sensitive and challenging subject—even more so than a traditional custody agreement (or battle, as the case may be). Regardless of how fair or equitable you strive to be in your agreement, one or both parents often walk away feeling as if they’re being shortchanged in the relationship with their child.

While this can’t be completely avoided in many cases, there are some techniques and coping mechanisms you can follow to at least make an interstate custody agreement more manageable and for everyone involved:

  1. When you’re working out a custody agreement with your divorce lawyers, you need to take steps to make regular phone calls or video chats part of the agreement that’s set in stone. These regular conversations between a parent and child can fall by the wayside when there’s work, school and activities to contend with, but if these are scheduled they’re not going to be as likely to be forgotten or missed.
  2. Video chat isn’t just a useful tool for communicating directly with your child—it can also help you stay involved in other aspects of your child’s life, including during parent-teacher conferences, or during important events or milestones. Just because you can’t physically be at an event doesn’t mean you can’t be part of it, particularly with today’s technological capabilities.
  3. Along with setting up scheduled chats in your visitation agreement, work with your lawyer to make provisions for even the smallest of details, which can become incredibly important when dealing with interstate child custody issues. For example, determine ahead of time how travel arrangements will occur, who will cover the costs, if and when grandparents and other relatives will be seen, how holidays will be handled, etc. By coming to these agreements ahead of time, you’re saving everyone a lot of future heartache.
  4. Try to take your own interests and wants out of the equation. Interstate parenting may seem incredibly difficult for you, but it’s going to be even more challenging for children in most cases, so try to handle the situation with your children’s best interest in mind at all times.
  5. If you’re the parent who has primary custody of your children, it’s up to you to help maintain a bond between your kids and the other parent. It may seem like the last thing you want to do, particularly if your divorce was contentious, but it’s beneficial for your children. You may consider inviting your former spouse to visit your home on a regular basis, or try to find activities where your child can engage with his or her other parent. If visiting at your home isn’t an option, consider agreeing on another relative where your former spouse can stay and visit with your children on a consistent basis.

Interstate parenting is never going to be simple, but it also doesn’t have to be full of heartache. The best initial step you can take is working with your divorce attorney to outline a custody and parenting plan that address current and future issues that may arise, and then taking every possible step to ensure you remain fair and flexible, and ask the same of your former spouse.