Being separated from a child after an out-of-state move can be an emotionally painful experience for many parents. As the non-custodial parent (i.e. the parent who doesn’t live with the child), an out-of-state move can reduce or even eliminate your ability to spend time with your child. If you’ve never had a parenting agreement, your ex gets to decide whether or not you and your child have contact. Even if you have a parenting agreement that was created when you and the child lived in the same state, that agreement may no longer be workable due to the increase in distance. For those without an enforceable parenting agreement, you may find yourself in the vulnerable position of only being able to spend time with your child if the other parent agrees. If your relationship with the other parent is strained, you may find yourself unable to talk to or see your child because your ex won’t pick up the phone or schedule a visit. Whether the move was your choice, or your ex’s, the distance may result in you being estranged from your child unless you seek outside help.
If you’re experiencing alienation from your child due to a move, you can take your case to court and ask that the judge order a parenting time schedule to allow you phone, video, and in-person contact with your child on a regular basis. If you’re considering legal action because the distance (and/or the other parent) is preventing you from having time with your child, or you want an allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities to ensure you have a consistent and enforceable parenting time schedule, here’s what to expect:
1) You Can Get Parenting Time: As a parent, you are entitled to parenting time, even if you live in a different state and haven’t seen your child in a while. The law favors children having relationships with both parents and will work to figure out a schedule to allow you to have time with your child, even if you live far apart. As long as you do not have a significant criminal history (i.e. serious child abuse, sexual, or physical assault), the law says that you should have parenting time and the judge will help facilitate a way for you to communicate with and visit your child. Parenting time often includes phone calls and video chats, as well as face-to-face visits.
2) You May Need to Start Slowly: If you haven’t seen your child in six months or more, and because in-person parenting time will require you and/or the child to travel, be prepared to wait at least a few months for a face-to-face visit with your child. Re-introduction usually includes regular phone calls and video chats to help you re-establish a rapport with your child. If there has been a long period of alienation, you may also want to consider using a family therapist to help you and your child reconnect after being out of contact for so long. Even after you are able to see your child face-to-face, phone and video calls will continue to be an important way for you two to communicate between visits.
3) Be Prepared to Travel: Because you and the child don’t live in the same state, one or both of you will have to travel. Visits with your child may be in the city where they live, or you may be able to bring the child back to your home. Flexibility is helpful when scheduling trips to see your child. Be ready to start in-person visits by coming to the city or town where the child lives to make the process easier for the child, especially if your child is too young to travel on their own. Because you and the child live in different states, visits may happen less frequently but for longer periods of time during your child’s school breaks. So, while you may not get to see your child on a monthly basis, you may be able to get longer visits over the child’s school breaks and summer vacation.
4) You Can (Usually) Split the Costs: Out-of-state travel is expensive and can limit the number of times parents are able to visit with their children every year. If you are paying for your child to visit your home, and your finances are limited, judges will often ease that financial burden by having you and your ex split the cost of your child’s airline ticket to help make sure the visits happen.
Even though the law favors both parents being in a child’s life, or many out-of-state parents it can be difficult to gain parenting time with their child without the assistance of a lawyer. Our firm has handled many cases for out-of-state parents like you. We can get you parenting time. Call us today to find out more about how we can help you reconnect with your child.