Long Distance / Out of State Custody

What do I need to know about long distance / out of state visitation?

Long distance / out of state visitation and custody is a very complex situation. You now have the added issue of one parent being hundreds or even thousands of miles from their child. This can potentially create additional stress and anxiety to your custody schedule.

There are a number of items to consider when creating your long distance or out of state custody schedule:

  • Where each parent lives and the length of travel time between them
  • Age and personality of your child
  • How the parents get along and if they can cooperate with each other
  • Where visitations will occur
  • What form of transportation will be used and travel costs
  • Parent work schedules and child school/activity schedules
What are some options for long distance / out of state visitation?

Many parents use a variety of different schedules depending on their circumstances and the items listed above. It is common for there to be different schedules during the school year and summer. Below are some of the schedules commonly used with out of state or long distance custody. You can choose from these examples or create your own custom schedule.

Alternating Weeks: Your child spends one week with you and the following week with the other parent. Exchanges happen once a week.

This schedule is a great option because your child can spend significant amounts of time with both parents. Some schedules follow alternating weeks during the summer and long weekends during the school year. There is a lot of travel with this schedule so plan for the financial and time commitments.

Long Weekends: You child spends most long weekends (any 3+ day weekend) with the non-custodial parent.

This schedule is for parents who live further apart. You and the other parent should put all of the long weekends that belong to the non-custodial parent in your parenting plan. Major holidays are usually divided between the parents. Make sure you include Memorial and/or Labor day, President's day, any school breaks, etc.

Alternating Weekends: You child lives with one parent during the week and then alternates weekends with each parent. Also known as an 80/20 schedule.

Many families who live in a few hours driving distance follow this plan. It is a great schedule because your child is still able to have a good relationship with both parents while maintaining one home base.

Long Summer & Certain Holiday's: You child will spend a large portion of the summer and certain holidays with the non-custodial parent.

This schedule is used when it is not feasible to have frequent visitation due to distance, travel costs or schedules. Travel can be long and expensive so make sure your parenting plan states who is responsible for these cost.

How do I make long distance / out of state custody visitation work for my child's age now and in the future?

You want to consider the age of your child and their needs when planning your custody schedule. These needs can change as your child grows. We have listed different age groups and what considerations need to be made. Each child is unique so remember to plan for your individual child's needs.

0-18 Months: Infants need to have one home environment. It is recommended to have more frequent but shorter in length visits with the child. Some states have requirements for this age group and usually require the non-custodial parent to visit the child in their home.

The non-custodial parent will sometimes need to travel to the child's home for visitation. They can take the child for a few hours outside of the home and possibly overnight. This should be determined by your unique situation.

Toddler Years: Your child at this age is able to spend more time away from home. Extended weekends are usually fine. Your child may still be too young for long visits alone.

One option is to have the custodial parent travel with the child and have a vacation while the child is with the other parent. Your child will know you are close by which will reduce any fears or anxiety. Older siblings also can help your toddler adjust to longer visits.

School Age: Your child at this age is able to spend long periods with the non-custodial parent. The biggest considerations at this age are scheduling around activities, how they manage traveling, and what age both parents are comfortable having the child travel alone.

You also want to provide your school age child plenty of opportunities to contact the custodial parent. Even though they are fine to be gone for longer time periods, they still can get homesick. Communication can be easily done with cell phones and video conference on Skype or Google+.

Pre-Teens: Your child at this age can easily travel and spend time with both parents. However, school and extracurricular activities will start to demand more of their time. Friends and their social life is also becoming more important in their life.

Teenage Years: Your child at this age has lots of demands on their time. Friends, activities, and jobs are usually a priority in their life. Most do not like to leave their life for long periods. Realize they may not want to spend much time with either parent.

Some options at this age are for them to have a summer job and/or friends in the town where the non-custodial parent lives. They will be more excited to spend time at the other parents home if they know there are things for them to do.

One final consideration to make is for the parents to decide at what age they will allow their child to drive to the other parents home for visitation. This depends on the distance, road conditions, and driving skills of you child.

How do I create a long distance schedule using Custody X Change?

Creating a long distance or out of state schedule using Custody X Change is very simple.

First, download and install the free edition.

Next, click on the first tab, "Regular Schedule" and you will see a calendar. To the right of the calendar is a menu of all the different custody schedules or the ability to create your own. Select the primary schedule your child will have during the school year. This will set up a repeating schedule for your child.

Now select the second tab, "Vacations". On the right you can select the dates the schedule will change for summer or an extended visit. You can choose an existing schedule for chosen dates or create your own.

The calendar will automatically fill out the new schedule for you. You can now make any needed changes and adjustments. Watch the video tutorial for additional information on creating a custody schedule.

Custody X Change is software that makes it easy to document your situation and stay organized.

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Download now to:

  • Create the best schedule for you and your kids.
  • Discover important clauses for your parenting plan.
  • Save money on legal fees and court costs.
  • End misunderstandings with a visual calendar.
  • Document your actual parenting time.
  • Track expenses and journal what happens.
  • Prepare for negotiation, mediation and court.
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Passed with flying colors

I can't thank you enough for the software. The Parenting Plan passed with flying colors in the courts and with my ex. Now the best part is that I am using the deluxe edition to adjust and record my times. Thanks again.

Gabriella Selmi
Granbury, TX


Gave me a clear picture

Without this software, I would have signed the proposed agreement and found out about the problems and conflicts only after it was too late. Custody X Change took the raw data I had stared at for days, and in a few minutes, gave me a crystal clear picture of the resulting schedule. Custody X Change is a must-have resource for parents and attorneys working with visitation issues.

Doug Conway
Fargo, ND


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