At the end of any trial pertaining to any divorce case in which the spouses have children, or at the end of any custody case, a court will decide with which parent a child will live the majority of the time, as well as a visitation schedule (called a “residential schedule” in Washington) for the other parent. To this end, a court will analyze what is in a child’s best interest, and decide accordingly. As society becomes more and more mobile, it is not uncommon for these decisions to have to be made in the context of two parents residing in two different states. Crafting an interstate parenting plan can present some unique issues and challenges.
Deciding which state is the appropriate place to file a divorce or custody case when the parents reside in different states can be the first hurdle. This decision is governed by a set of laws titled the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” and most states in the United States have a similar or identical set of laws. Under these provisions, the usual place that an initial custody determination must be made is the home state of the child, or the state that was the child’s home state for the last six months. In other words, the court will look to where the child lived for the last six months, and usually that is where the child custody case should be filed. The purpose of this provision is to prevent one parent from taking the child to another state and suddenly filing for custody in that states.
Once the proper location of the custody case has been determined, the parents and the court are then faced with the issue of how to create a residential schedule where the parents live in two different states. Courts will typically take special care to make sure both parents are able to maintain as much of a relationship as is reasonably possible with the child. Depending on the age of the child, parents may want to consider building in to the parenting plan the opportunity for the child to fly as an unaccompanied minor when traveling back and forth between the parents’ homes. Parents will need to take into account the child’s age, maturity, and airline regulations when considering this option. Parents will also want to consider how the cost of travel will be divided.
Another plan that parents may want to build in to the residential schedule is electronic communication. FaceTime, email, text messaging, Skype, and numerous other communication methods can be helpful in assisting children maintain a close connection with a parent despite the long distance.
If you have an interstate parenting plan issue, let us answer your questions. We have experience in helping our clients craft creative solutions that fit their children’s needs. Contact us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment