Long-Distance Visitation

So lately I’m scrambling to get my life together for the next year-ish plus, including but not limited to:

1) Finding a job (or several part-time jobs) in private practice,

2) Finding a new apartment,

3) Finding a new preschool,

4) Sorting out the latest complicated situation in my personal life, which for once I don’t feel like discussing here (hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?),

5) Not attending the purse party (this one was critical), and

6) Figuring out a plan for long-distance visitation, since Tyler is moving to D.C. and Caroline and I are staying here in New England.

Yep… lots of changes happening around here.

I have several interviews and prospects lined up for number one, numbers two and three are dependent on the location of number one, number four is just depressing me and you’d probably all judge me for it anyway, number five is very much completed, and number six is undetermined right now.  Which is where you people come in.

Tyler and I have always known we would eventually have to figure out some kind of plan for long-distance visitation.  He is a paleontologist, and there are very few job openings for that, so he will likely always live far away from us.  He’ll be going from postdoc to postdoc for a number of years, but once he settles down permanently, I’ll consider relocating to where he is for Caroline’s sake.

Until then, I have no idea how to work this– try to stick to the current every-other-weekend schedule?  Figure out several longer periods of visitation, spaced farther out over time?  Who will be responsible for traveling with her, and how will we work out who covers what?  I don’t want to just leave it up to him and not have a plan, because I’m pretty sure he’ll slowly fade out of Caroline’s life… and they’ve gotten so much closer lately, and it’s been so good for her.

(Selfish full-disclosure time: it’s not just about Caroline.  I’ll admit that I’m freaking out a bit about the potential of going back to the solo parenting gig, because that was a tough road.  I love my daughter, but she is quite the handful at this age and I need a little bit of a break.  My parents are fantastic and will always help me out, but Caroline needs her father, too, and he has responsibilities that he should be fulfilling no matter where he lives.  So, we need a plan.)

Any suggestions?  How do you and your ex handle long-distance coparenting?  And if one of you moved and you changed your visitation schedule drastically, did you actually modify your court order, or just work it out between you two as a verbal agreement?


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  1. by Heather

    On May 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    My parents lived 12 hours apart my entire life. We visited my dad durning school breaks. Spring break and Thanksgiving always at my dads, summer we spent the first and last week with my mom(who we primarily lived with) and the rest of the summer with my dad. The two weeks for Christmas/new years was swapped back and forth (this year Christmas with Dad, New Years with Mom, next year swap). It was the best plan they could find in that situation. Good Luck!!

  2. by Heather

    On May 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Also, my parents met at the half way point between our towns at a restaurant, that way it was the same driving distance.

  3. by Emily

    On May 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    There are a number of guidelines available online that take age and development of the child in joint custody or visitation scenarios into account. Your county court where you got divorced likely has one on their website. As Caroline is very young, a parenting coordinator or mediator would be VERY unlikely to recommend doing a few longer stays with him. In joint custody situations with a child that age parents often switch off every one to two days. I’d strongly suggest keeping it to weekends. Either do the half way point or switch off which one of you does the commute. But both of you would have to have places to stay in the other’s area and you’d have to be comfortable with wherever he’s staying in CT when he has her. And I might recommend using a mediator and having it in writing. It sounds like your relationship isn’t always amicable and he could switch gears at some point and claim you prevented him from seeing her. Best to protect yourself.

  4. by Kimberlie

    On May 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    As an attorney completely not licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction – here’s my two cents:
    1) absolutely absolutely put it in writing and have the court sign off on it. you need to protect yourself and your daughter and have something enforceable in the event that the other party decides not to return her, or decides not to follow the parenting plan.

    2) until the child is old enough to fly alone, or fly with an accompanying flight attendant for an extra charge, I’ve seen parents each agree to pay for 1/2 of the kids’ flight and then be responsible for their own flight to chaperone the child. Dad would fly to pick up at beginning and Mom would fly to pick up at the end.

    3) as for extended visits — you are the only one that knows your child and how she’ll perform away from you. (and how many airline tickets you can afford to buy) trust your gut on this one. I think the visits would also largely depend on what his work/school schedule is – i don’t think it would be sensical to have the child have to attend a daycare while she is away.

    there ya go – that’s what i think.

  5. by Lori

    On May 1, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Could Tyler consider not going from postdoc to postdoc? Professionally, how many does he need? Or, are multiple postdocs in lieu of the struggle with finding full-time employment? Since he already has his degree and experience, maybe finding employment (and still engaging in training experiences) can be his focus. This way, he would be better equipped to provide for Caroline financially and he could commit to a location which would make visitation decisions easier over the long-term. I can understand your thoughts about solo parenting and also the importance of doing well professionally as you get (and start) your first job. Your life has certainly changed (I’m sure in many ways for the better with Caroline). Maybe, it’s time for Tyler to start making some changes in his life too (ie looking for employment by you, Caroline and your support network).

  6. by Anon

    On May 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    A tricky situation to figure out!

    Here’s my situation: I grew in a mid-distance custody agreement situation–parents living 2.5 hours apart when my father’s postdoc ended and he got a tenure track position–and like Tyler, he always put career ahead of family. By then, my mom was well-settled in the city they’d moved to for his second post-doc/where they got divorced, so she wasn’t going to follow. I was 6, but my sister was only 2. My parents’ custody agreement stated that while we lived with one parent, we were required to visit the other parent every 2nd weekend, plus all school breaks including summer. Then after a couple years, we had to switch to the other parent’s house (new state, not just new school) and do the reverse, then a couple years later, switch back. I was a shy kid. All this switching sucked. At least my sister and I were always together! I’m glad you are the main, stable parent for Caroline–though I admire your wanting to ensure her relationship with Tyler even if he’s not likely to make the effort on his own.

    We could do the commute by car, which it seems like may be too long for you and Tyler. That’s tricky because $$$ racks up quickly with air travel. In case you are able to car-travel, I’ll share that my parents at first did a midpoint drop-off in a parking lot so that neither had to drive as long on Friday or Sunday nights, but that all ended in a snow storm where we all were waiting for hours, never found each other, and eventually went home with the parent of origin. After that, one parent drove down & back on Friday, the other on Sunday. We ate fast food for dinner on the road. So much about the whole time period sucked.

    But I was raised by both parents (pros and cons of that are another issue).

    The worst part was that the switcheroo part of the agreement ended when I was in grade 8, and at that point I was put in the position of deciding for both my sister & me, and informing my parents, where we would be living from then on out. It’s a terrible position to be put in, to tell a parent you don’t want to live with them again. Whatever you can do to make that part of it easier on Caroline, do! I know she’ll have preferences of her own, and stronger ones as she grows, but she still may not feel safe expressing them exactly to either of you because of knowing how hurt either of you may be (and how you may act towards her in response).

    Good luck!

  7. by Julia

    On May 2, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Sigh, it seems there is more to think about than I had originally thought… I do always tend to forget that all of this will become much more complicated as Caroline gets older…

    Lori, about Tyler’s career– it’s a tough one. He wouldnt be going from postdoc to postdoc on purpose, that’s more of an unfortunate side effect of the field he has chosen. I agree that he should try to consider his daughter’s needs over his own, at times, but a lot of his attitudes toward career and family are reasons I left him in the first place, so it doesn’t help me much if I get upset over them now. And on the other hand, I don’t want him to mess with my career so I try to make it a policy not to mess with his…

    My real hope is that he’ll quickly find a permanent job in a location where I wouldn’t mind living, and then hopefully we can live relatively close and coparent as peacefully as possible. We’ll see how it goes, but that’s my goal!

  8. by Lori

    On May 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    That makes sense, Julia. Just wanted to highlight the sacrifices you have made as a professional woman and that hopefully, Tyler will be willing to accommodate your needs and those of Caroline, now and in the future. I wish you the best!

  9. by Julia

    On February 2, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Hi Julia, I can empathize with you on this for sure. I have been a single parent of my daughter (now age 6 1/2) since I was pregnant. I spent the better part of the first 3 years of her life trying to force a relationship between her and her father, saying the same thing, “it’s what’s best for her.” Well in the end he ended up marrying another woman and building a family with 2 more children. This past year we all went through a lot of changes. My ex and his new wife and their children moved to a new town (only about a half hour from where we were living originally). And I decided to move overseas with our daughter, to be near my family in a country where both my daughter and I are also citizens. (long story). My ex and I had always had a verbal visitation agreement only as we had never been married and so there was no divorce order with custody included. Our visitation agreement was literally whenever it was convenient for him, which turned out to be something like 3 days/month on average if not way less. When I asked him permission to move overseas with my daughter he signed the permission papers without question. Then 6 months later secretly sued me for 50/50 custody. This is AFTER I sold all my belongings in the States and moved half-way across the world, enrolled my daughter in the first grade in a non-English speaking school where she’d been attending for 3 months. Anyways SUPER long story short. I had to fly back to the States to conclude meetings with lawyers to get this settled ASAP. In the end we signed an agreement where I retain sole physical custody, we can live overseas, and he receives 1 week of visitation/year. I pay all the travel costs and his child support was lowered to a fraction of what he should be paying.

    I know what you’re saying when you say that it would be nice to have some help with co-parenting, but in my case, as much as help WOULD be nice, my ex doesn’t really help, he just creates more drama. I’ve had to be honest with myself in the fact that if he would have wanted to parent her, he WOULD BE PARENTING HER!

    So I guess what I’m saying is, make your life decisions on what’s truly best for you and Caroline and leave your ex out of it. If he wants to be in her life he will be. And if he doesn’t, then you’re both better off without him. Don’t push him to be in her life, it’s not fair to anyone; you, him, or especially Caroline.

    As for a long-distance visitation agreement. Get it in writing and signed off in court. You must protect yourself. Decide what is most important to you, and get as close to that as possible. For me it was having sole custody and living abroad. I had to forget about the money and any hope of co-parenting.

    Good luck! And if you ever wanna chat or even just vent, email me!!! Us single MaMas need to stick together!