When divorced parents live in two separate and distant cities, getting the children from one parent's home to the other's for visitation can seem daunting. In this article, we discuss the how of long-distance visitation, including issues like air travel and meeting in the middle. In Texas, visitation is generally considered long distance when the non-custodial parent lives more than 100 miles from the primary residence of the child. The non-custodial parent is the parent with whom the child does not live. For an explanation of the standard visitation schedule for a non-custodial parent who lives more than 100 miles from the primary residence of the child, check out our answer to the FAQ "What is the Standard Possession Order?"
There are three main ways exchanging the child can work when the parties live far apart.
Non-Custodial Parent Travels
The non-custodial parent can simply pick up the child from the custodial parent's home and return the child to the same place. The downside of this option is that the non-custodial parent who lives far from the child has to bear all the burden of travel. If the non-custodial parent decides to stay in the child's home city during visitation, then another downside is that visitation will usually take place in hotels or other people's homes. The upside of this option is that the child doesn't have to undergo the stress of travel. This option is usually the best solution for a very young child.
Meeting in the Middle
The parents can meet in the middle to exchange the child. This only works when the parents live within a reasonable driving distance of each other and have a decent co-parenting relationship. This solution often comes into play when a non-custodial parent lives in Austin or San Antonio or some other Texas city that's about 3 to 4 hours away from the Houston metro area. The upside of this option is that both parents are evenly bearing the stress of travel. Another plus is that the child spends the visitation in the non-custodial parent's home. The downside of this option is that the child has to deal with the long drive.
The child can fly to the non-custodial parent's city. When the parents live too far apart to drive and the child is old enough to fly alone, this is the best option. The non-custodial parent generally buys the round-trip plane tickets for the child. The non-custodial parent is usually required to buy tickets a few weeks ahead of time and out of a major airport close to the child. It will be the responsibility of the custodial parent to drop off and pick up the child from the home city airport. If the custodial parent misses the flight, then the custodial parent is generally on the hook for the cost of the round trip ticket. The child should be with a parent or supervising adult from gate to gate. The upside of this option is that the child gets to spend visitation in the non-custodial parent's home and neither parent has to travel. The downside is the cost to the non-custodial parent can be significant and the child bears all the stress of travel.
If you need help in a child custody case setting up or enforcing long distance visitation, contact Sugar Land child custody attorney Chikeersha Puvvada at 832-317-6705 or online today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.