As life changes, you may need to navigate a situation where one parent lives out of state and a visitation schedule is needed. Don't worry – you have options! Whether you are moving out of state or your child's other parent is, you can find a solution that works for you.
Physical Custody: How it Works and What You Should Know
Custody and visitation arrangements come in many shapes and sizes, so it's essential to understand physical custody and how it relates to you.
A parent with physical custody is responsible for their child's day-to-day needs in addition to providing a safe and stable home environment. Parents can have joint physical custody, which means that the child lives with each parent for a significant amount of time not necessarily half or sole custody where the child lives with one parent exclusively.
Noncustodial parents can still visit their children by establishing a visitation schedule. Visitation can be supervised or unsupervised depending on the circumstances involved, but complications can arise if one parent moves out of state.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a federal law that sets standards for custody and visitation when parents live in different states. Essentially, the law states that the final custody visitation can only be made in one state and upheld by another.
For example, if a parent moves to Iowa, but the original custody agreement was made in California, Iowa courts have to follow the original custody agreement made in California even though their state may have different rules. The initial order also can't be modified by a court outside of the home state. So, a case that starts in California generally stays in California.
States define a "home state" based on the following qualifiers:
- The child has lived in-state for the last six months but is not there because a parent has kept the child out of state.
- The child has strong connections with teachers, doctors, personal relationships, etc., in the state.
A custody agreement can only be made in one state. Once the decision is final, it is enforced according to the original order regardless of state lines. So, creating a strong parenting plan and visitation schedule prior to one parent moving out of state is crucial.
Parenting plans help you and the child's other parent create a fair visitation schedule that reflects relocation and other changes that may come up over time. Additionally, parents can meet visitation expectations virtually if their situation does not allow them to spend time with the child face-to-face. Virtual visitation is a great resource for military parents, parents who often travel for work, out-of-state parents, or those in quarantine where visitation is prohibited.
How to Make a Parenting Plan
The goal of a parenting plan is to provide your child with the opportunity to spend time with both parents. Your plan should not jeopardize your child's safety or basic needs, and it is always better to have a specific plan that may allow some flexibility in case changes come up over time.
So, what should a parenting plan include? Your plan should reflect your situation and provide a safe and fulfilling environment for your child.
Plans should include all of the following and more:
- Where children will be during the week and weekends
- Where children will be for holidays, summer vacations, and special days
- Which parent will be in charge of activities like sports and music lessons
- Which parent is "in charge" in certain situations
- How the children will commute from one parent to another
Having a very specific plan in place with exact instructions and limitations for travel and transportation is critical for parents dealing with out-of-state visitation.
California Courts provide several helpful resources regarding parenting plans and visitation, which you can find here.