Considerations for Long-Distance Custody Agreements

In custody situations, if one parent moves away from the other you will need to create a long-distance custody agreement. If this situation applies to you and you are in the initial stages of your custody proceedings, you will automatically have to include provisions for long-distance custody. However, if a parent relocates after custody has been finalized, you will need to return to court to have your order modified.

Standard long-distance visitation schedules can be used as guidelines. You should not feel obligated to use them. If you can reach an agreement with the other parent you should be able to create your custody arrangements as you see fit.

Consider the following when drafting a long-distance custody agreement.

Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

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Long-distance provisions

It is a good idea to include provisions for a long-distance custody arrangement in your original custody agreement. Planning ahead will prevent you from having to return to court which will save time and money. Having a pre-existing plan in place in the event a parent decides to move away will help you avoid an unnecessary court battle.

A typical long-distance (300 miles or more) custody agreement might consist of the noncustodial parent having the child:

  • Spring Break - Every year
  • Fall Break (in states that have them) - Odd years
  • Thanksgiving (from Wednesday to Sunday) - Even years
  • Christmas (for seven days) - Odd years
  • Summer - Thirty consecutive days for the first visit after school gets out, with an additional two or three week visit at the end of summer

Sole custody

Occasionally, the parent that is relocating will try to go back to court to get sole custody in order to take the child out of the area. The parent may try to convince the judge that there are legitimate reasons why they should have sole custody. The parent may try to argue that moving with the child will be better for the child.

Sometimes these tactics work, but it is usually only because the other parent was able to convince the judge that moving would in fact be in the best interests of the child. However, most judges consider continuity and stability to be important factors in a child's life. Disrupting the child's home, school and community is not something to be done on a whim or without a good reason.

These attempts to gain sole custody of the child in order to move away with the child often backfire. The result is the child remains with the parent that is not moving away and often times that parent will have gained sole custody in the process.

Visits for the distanced parent

A typical long-distance visitation schedule allows the distanced parent to visit the child within the child's community several times a year. You need to decide how much advance notice the visiting parent should give the other parent and the maximum amount of time each visit shall last.

Visits from the out-of-area parent should not interfere with the other parent's allocated holidays and should not infringe upon a parent's birthday or a Mother's Day or Father's Day celebration. A father could certainly visit the child on Father's Day (or a mother, on Mother's Day) and the custodial parent should not attempt to prevent the visit.

Your child's age

The age of your child should play a role in the length and frequency of long-distance visitation. It is unreasonable to expect a two-year-old to go on a plane and spend thirty days apart from her primary caregiver. You may include different custody arrangements for your child at different ages and stages in her life.

Travel expenses

You don't have to agree to share travel and transportation expenses. You may believe it's logical and fair for the other parent to be solely responsible for those costs, especially if they chose to move away. You can bring your concern to the judge, who makes a final decision.

The easiest way to make a long-distance custody agreement

There are several other things you should consider when forming a long-distance custody agreement, some of which you may not think of on your own.

Use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating a comprehensive parenting plan.

The result is a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent and secures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

Make My Plan


50/50, 60/40, 70/30, 80/20

Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

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