There are a number of reasons why divorced or separated parents move away from the city or state where their children reside. Whether it is the custodial or non-custodial parent who is moving away, or both, such a move creates obvious problems for parents who share child custody.
However, there are a host of long-distance time-sharing solutions that parents can try in order to minimize the stress that a substantial change in time-sharing can put on their children. It goes without saying that any solution will be much more effective when parents have a civil relationship that encourages open communication about child issues, including custody and time-sharing arrangements.
First of all, in a joint custody situation, when a parent wants to take their children out of state permanently, the moving parent cannot leave with the children without the agreement of the other parent. If the parents can‘t agree on the move, then the parent who wants to relocate with the children will need to get the Court to approve the move. Many New Mexico parenting plans provide a set of procedures for parents to follow when one or both want to leave the state with the children.
When the Court does allow a parent to move with the children, there are several issues to be considered. Other than missing regular contact with their children, the costs of travel and other expenses presented by long-distance time-sharing can be one of the most difficult issues for parents to address. Aside from travel costs required to visit with the non-custodial parent, there may also be long-distance telephone bills as well as increased costs for mailing gifts and other items. Parents may also wish to purchase a computer, web camera, or cell phone to keep in touch with their out-of state children.
This may require some compromises on the part of the parents. In the absence of compromise, the intervention of the Court may be required. In some cases the Court may reduce child support payments to make up for the costs of travel and communication. In other cases, ther Court may require the moving parent to be largely or fully responsible for travel and other communication costs.
The logistics of scheduling visitation also becomes more difficult in a long-distance time-sharing agreement and will depend heavily on where the parent and children are moving. It is generally easier for parents to schedule frequent visits between New Mexico and a neighboring state than a distant state. In addition, distant locations my complicate travel for small children when flight connections are required. In fact, this may not be realistic at all since navigating airports and connections, even with the assistance of airport personnel, can cause significant stress on a young child traveling alone. If long distances make it impossible to have frequent visits, the court will often restructure visitation to provide for longer visitation periods with the non-custodial parent during the summer months or other periods when the children are out of school.
Assuming the children are moving also, when planning a move that will require long-distance time-sharing, the moving parent should be ready to show the Court that they are not moving in an effort to create distance between the non-custodial parent and children. The moving parent should also be open to facilitate as much time as possible during school breaks and summers to compensate the other parent for lost time with the children.
Parents pursuing relocation should also try to support a relationship between the children and the non-custodial parent and strive to maintain communication and shared parenting responsibilities with the non-custodial parent. Getting approval for relocation can be a very long process and any parent considering relocation should consult an experienced child custody attorney as soon as possible in order to ensure that the process is on the right track from the beginning.