Long Distance Custody Agreements and Visitation Schedules – International Agreements
Alexis was eight years old when her parents got divorced. At first, Lexi lived with her mother and spent a good amount of time with her father. Her mother remarried when Lexi was ten.
Lexi’s new step-dad plays a professional sport. Six months after they were married, Lexi’s mother had to make a tough choice since her husband had been traded to a Canadian team.
Lexi’s father did not want her to move a thousand miles away to Canada. After much discussion, it was decided that Alexis would remain in the U.S. with her father, family, and friends. Lexi’s mother moved to Canada with her new husband.
Before she left the country, Lexi’s parents had to return to court to modify their custody agreement to accommodate the pending changes and create a long distance custody agreement. Lexi’s father was given sole custody and her mother was granted visitation. They conceded that if the mother returned to the States and lived within a feasible distance, they would once again share joint custody.
They created a long distance visitation schedule. They decided that Lexi would not be able to leave the country to visit her mother until she was twelve years old. It would then be her mother’s responsibility to come back to the States and accompany Alexis as she traveled to Canada and back.
The first two years, and every other year after that, it would be the mother’s responsibility to come to Alexis and visit her at home. She has been able to visit every few months and she spends about a month visiting Lexi in the summer. Lexi has spent two summers with her mother in Canada without incident.
Her mother bought Alexis a cell phone and pays for the bill. They talk and text almost every day. Though it isn’t as good as being able to see her mother in person every day, they have a good relationship and Lexi is very close with both of her parents.
If you are in a situation where you may need a long distance custody agreement, hopefully your agreement will work as smoothly as it did for Lexi’s family. There are, however, many things you should consider.
Once your child leaves the country with another parent, it may be extremely difficult to get them back if the other parent isn’t willing to do so. Allowing your child to leave the country with your ex is something that should be given much thought and consideration.
Younger children do not have the ability to contact you if they need to. A three year old isn’t going to have any idea what to do if they are taken from the country and not returned. A thirteen year old will probably have something to say about it. Consider the age and abilities of your child as you create a long distance custody agreement.
There are certain countries that have absolutely no regard for American law and your custody order will be invalid there. This can be dangerous as your ex could take your child and never return him.
Some countries have Comity. This means they have an agreement to honor laws from certain countries. However, you should not rely on the reciprocation of Comity to protect your custodial rights. There is nothing to stop your ex from traveling to ANY country once your child is over the border.
If you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with your child leaving the country with your ex, your custody order should forbid him or her from leaving the country (or even the state) with your child.
You can include stipulations in your custody agreement that prohibits your ex from obtaining a passport for your child and that forbids him or her from removing your child from the area. If you feel your ex may attempt to flee with your child, you can request supervised visitation.
Your long distance visitation schedule can allow the other parent to come to visit your child. This is often more convenient for both parents and can be less expensive.
It’s not your child’s fault that the other parent has relocated out of the country, but you should take measures to protect him. Regardless, you should allow your child to actively communicate with the other parent so they maintain their relationship. You may also want to teach him or her how to make an international phone call, just in case.