How to Create a Long-Distance Parenting Plan

A young girl travels alone by plane to visit a parent

Walking through a divorce is a challenging process for everyone involved. Add children into the mix, and a divorce can become even harder. Using mediation services throughout the divorce process can help make the overall process easier for the whole family.

Creating a parenting plan is part of the mediation process in a divorce and is a great way to establish guidelines and expectations for both parents and children. Learn more about how to create a long-distance parenting plan to help make the divorce easier for everyone involved.

What Is a Long-Distance Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a set of guidelines that includes information about custody issues in a divorce. With the help of a mediator, both parents agree to the parenting plan to include specific details about school pickup, visitations, and even how holidays and birthdays will be spent.

A long-distance parenting plan is the same except that the parents don’t live in the same area. Some parents who use long-distance parenting plans live a few hours apart, while others can live in separate countries. A long-distance parenting plan is a legal document that states how the child will be raised when the parents no longer live in the same area after divorce.

Things to Include In a Long-Distance Parenting Plan

While standard parenting plans include details such as who watches the kids after school or who is in charge of dentist appointments, a long-distance parenting plan includes different issues.

Distance Between Parents

When co-parents live farther away from each other, the distance between the two can be the most crucial hurdle to consider. If the parents live within driving distance, plans should be made for regular visitations. For those parents who live farther apart where flying is required, plans can be made for longer visits that occur once or twice a year. The sheer distance between co-parents is the most important part of creating a long-distance parenting plan.

Financial Responsibilities

Flying across the country or from another country itself can be both time-consuming and quite expensive. It is essential to consider the financial responsibilities of sending children to visit parents who live far away. Financial issues could greatly reduce the amount of time a co-parent can see a child in person.

Child’s Age and Development

If you and your spouse have young children, a child can’t travel alone to visit the other parent. Factor in the child’s age as well as maturity when it comes to long-distance travel. If a child can’t handle traveling, the co-parent should consider traveling to the child for visits. Medical conditions and those children who struggle with change may also factor into the long-distance parenting plan.

School Breaks and Holidays

Pre-planning out where a child will go during school breaks and holidays makes it easier for the entire family. Deciding where the child will spend school breaks and holidays beforehand allows everyone to plan and set expectations for the year. Don’t forget to include the child’s birthday and the parent’s birthdays in the holiday planning as well. Consider switching holidays each year so that the time during big celebrations is equal between parents.


It is vital to set up good communication between you and your spouse. Find what works best for the two of you to communicate, whether it is through text, email, or phone calls. Be respectful of the co-parent’s schedule and remember that last-minute changes can cause emotional responses.

When it comes to communicating with your child, it is vital to establish a routine for the parent who isn’t living with the child on a daily basis. Scheduling daily or weekly video chats can help children feel connected to the other parent and keep the other parent involved in their child’s life.

COVID-19 Issues

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused issues with traveling as well as keeping distance from those who don’t live in the same household. Health concerns and vaccine issues can affect a long-distance parenting plan. As parents, it is important to remain flexible when finding a solution for co-parenting during a pandemic. Remember that the health and safety of the child is the top priority.

Long-distance parenting plans do take work and plenty of communication. It is crucial to establish a plan that benefits both parents and keeps the child’s welfare at the focus. When creating a long-distance parenting plan for your family, remember that both parents want to be involved and want what is best for the child. Communicate well with the other co-parent and make changes to the plan if needed in the future.

How a Certified Mediator Can Help You Decide On Your Long-Distance Parenting Plan

Donita King can help you create a long-distance parenting plan that spans borders and gives appropriate considerations and attention to family, ethnic, religious, and cultural differences as well. She helps parents, both locally and those who live far away, develop a plan that works for the whole family. Donita speaks Spanish and has helped parents create parenting plans that span thousands of miles. For more information about mediation divorce services and creating a long-distance parenting plan, contact her office today!

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Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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