Resolving Children’s Travel Issues in Tennessee Parenting Plans
Resolving Children’s Travel Issues Before They Become Problematic in Tennessee Parenting Plans – Part 2
Assuming that the relocation is permitted, the following considerations should be taken into account. While each case and family is different, there are similar themes that occur with families who are relocating with children.
One of the most important issues to include in a relocation parenting plan is travel. The parenting plan needs to address this, such as whether the children are traveling by car, plane, bus, or train, or, in some instances, by boat, including a ferry. The method of travel may be important to one or both parents. Primary parents may not want to see their children get on a plane alone, or the distance may not be so far that driving may be more feasible. Discuss this with your family lawyer and make sure you have arguments ready in case the other parent insists on one type of transportation, such as flying, and you oppose that method. Consider alternatives, such as having someone fly with the children or having the child take a train. Again, you may feel uncomfortable having the children ride alone in anything other than a car. Consider your options and perhaps either find a mutually agreeable travel companion for the children or make arrangements with the air carrier to watch your children. Air carriers will do that if there are young children or even teenagers flying without an adult. Most air carriers also will have their own rules when it comes to unaccompanied minors, so both parents will have to make sure these rules are complied with.
Another consideration is which airports to use. In one case, the father was the primary parent and the mother had the children fly into a less convenient airport because it was cheaper for her. The father was unhappy when he had to drive several hours to the airport and several hours back to his home. This can be avoided by arriving at a solution in the parenting plan. If you want to state which airport is going to be used, specify it in the parenting plan.
The parenting plan acts as a roadmap after it is complete — it should have instructions for things such as travel, phone calls, and the amount and dates of visits. It has to be followed unless you both agree otherwise.
If you want to make sure that the children fly directly to the other parent without a stop-over, specify it in the parenting plan. If you leave this out of the plan, there may be a chance that the children will have to change planes, buses, or trains. You can have peace of mind if you put these details in your plan.
There should be a provision for notifying the other parent when the children have arrived at the other end, whether it’s an airport, bus terminal, or other destination. There should be a provision indicating to how to notify the parent. If, for example, you are the non-primary parent and you do not want to talk to the primary parent, perhaps you can text-message or e-mail that the children have arrived safely. It’s a good idea to have the parenting plan specify that text-messaging, phone calls or e-mails should be done as soon as possible and certainly within a specified number of hours. This ensures that if you just sent the children on a vacation with dad or mom, you won’t have to wait until the next day to find out they arrived safely or if there were any problems.
If either your or your soon-to-be ex-spouse has an issue with the cost of travel, there are ways to provide for less expensive transportation in a parenting plan. This will require some flexibility on the part of each parent. For example, if flying directly to the nearest airport is cost-prohibitive and you have older children, you may be comfortable with travel by train or partial travel by train followed by some other form of transportation. There are many different scenarios which can occur — agreeing up-front to the transportation issues will go a long way to prevent later court battles, especially when money is an issue.
What happens if driving is the best option? For example, if the relocation was from Tennessee to Kentucky, perhaps driving is the best way to travel. But how will that work? Does the non-primary parent do all the driving or is the driving shared? These are questions that are case-specific, and hopefully you and your ex-spouse will be able to work that out for the parenting plan. There are several ways this could work if you and your former spouse are willing to compromise. Let’s say the one-way trip is six hours. One way to handle that is to have one parent drive to the destination and the other spouse drive from the destination. That means each parent will have to do six hours of driving and then either stay in the area (if the visit is brief) or head back home, driving another six hours after probably staying the night in a motel. This is not necessarily the best way to handle transportation, but it is very common. Another possibility is to have each parent drive half-way. You can decide upon a mid-way point and meet there. This way, each parent is driving six hours, but they’re not driving twelve.
If you have a difficult spouse, it becomes more complicated to finalize a parenting plan. Let’s say you’re the mom (the primary parent for this scenario) and you don’t want to do any driving. This is unfortunate for dad, who maybe can’t afford to do all the driving with the high cost of gas and lodging. If dad has to do all the driving, it would be helpful for you to contribute by paying for some of the gas, lodging, and possibly meals. If you can’t help out monetarily, or if you won’t help out with the driving, this is going to be a source of problems for you and for your ex-spouse. You may be in court for awhile trying to come up with something agreeable to both of you. You may have to give to get — that is, you may have to give up something else if you’re mom so you don’t have to do any driving. For example, maybe you’re going to have to allow larger blocks of parenting time over the summer so that dad does the driving. If you’re dad and you’re stuck with all the driving, it can be very frustrating. It also can be used as a bargaining chip to get something you wouldn’t ordinarily get, such as longer blocks of parenting time, more holidays, or maybe even most of the summer instead of just part of it.
The other side of the coin is that perhaps the non-primary parent doesn’t feel that he should do any driving because he didn’t choose to move. In some cases, the primary parent could end up doing all of the driving. The best way to handle this if you are the primary parent is to try to negotiate this point. See if you can offer something else so that dad will share travel responsibilities with you. It may not be complete 50-50 shared driving – for example, you may have to drive more hours than the non-primary parent, but if you can get some cooperation, it will reduce your travel time. If you’re the non-primary parent and if you do some of the travel, perhaps you can get some extra time with the children. Negotiating up-front for a good parenting plan will help to avoid ugly incidents in the future.
Additional Parts of Tennessee Long-Distance Parenting Plans: A Roadmap for Relocation:
- Smart Travel Plans for Parents’ Long Distance Visitation
- Resolving Children’s Travel Issues Before They Become Problematic
- Figuring out How Much Parenting Time is Feasible for Your Family
- Make-Up Parenting Time and Flexibility
- Denial of Parenting Time and an “Override Option”
- Including Time of Day for Travel and What to do in the Event of a Delay
- Scheduling Conflicts, Communication with Children and Special Needs