Virginia resident Thurmond Alford puts some miles on his car. In 2014 he was profiled on CBS News1 for having one of the world’s longest commutes, at 3½ hours each way, from Richmond to his job in Washington, D.C. He travels 110 miles each way to provide for his family. What are you willing to do to preserve the relationships you have with your children? What if you live in Virginia, and your kids live in Maryland, North Carolina, or further away?
Visitation is Not Just A Suggestion
A court order to provide child visitation is not just some gentle advice to be ignored. It is an extension of Virginia law, duly authorized by a Virginia judge, and neither parent should disregard its words.
You have a right to ensure access to your children, by getting the wording into the property settlement agreement (if you are going through a divorce) or into the court-ordered parenting plan (if you are unmarried but are the father of kids you want to see) to protect your rights. Visitation is not merely a suggestion. You are expected under Virginia law to maintain a healthy relationship with your children, according to Virginia Code § 20-124.3:
… the court shall consider the following:
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
- The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
- The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
Whether you are in the next block, next county, or next state, you have a legal obligation to keep in contact with your children. Your attorney is not stretching a point to include wording in a child visitation agreement to protect your rights, no matter where you live.
Travel Expenses CAN Be Considered for Child Support
As the non-custodial parent, you will bear the burden of paying to visit your children, or for paying for them to come to you via a safe mode of transportation. Your costs for that can be considered in petitions for child support, under Code of Virginia § 20-108.1 (B) 2:
… the amount of support … shall be determined … by evidence pertaining to the following factors affecting the obligation, the ability of each party to provide child support, and the best interests of the child:
2. Arrangements regarding custody of the children, including the cost of visitation travel;
So, your monthly plane ticket from New Bedford, Massachusetts to Bedford, Virginia to see your kids can be considered part of your expenses for calculating available income to go toward child support.
It will be your responsibility to find a way to afford those travel expenses, though. One way to ensure your children can visit with you (or you with them) with an interstate arrangement is to pare your living expenses to the bone. You may also need to look at increasing your income by getting a second, part-time job.
The court will honor your desire to maintain the relationship and will acknowledge the extraordinary expenses you may incur in travel.
Traveling Should be Age Appropriate
The decision to have your children travel to you (rather than you to them) is largely based on their age and comfort with travel.
The court cannot order (or provide) a chaperone to prevent them traveling alone. Your attorney can lay the groundwork for protecting your right to see your children but cannot enshrine the specific arrangements in the legal agreement. That is up to you, the children’s mother, and the kids themselves. What are they able to handle?
As explained in The Huffington Post, “unaccompanied minors” — UMs — are common enough that airlines have protocols for them. If your kids are flying from Virginia to, say, Montana to spend the summer with you, expect to make the travel plans well in advance, through the airline (not online), and to provide details:
- Government-issued photo identification for adults at both ends of the journey
- Cell phone numbers for all adults responsible for the children
Call the airlines early on to learn exactly what you will need to do to make the child’s trip as calm, uneventful, and pleasant as possible.
Call The Firm For Men
Your wisest course, early in the proceedings, is to ask a family law attorney for help protecting your rights and your relationship with your children. The legal and travel costs, no matter how high, are a pittance compared to the priceless relationships you preserve.
A parenting plan to deal with interstate visitation may be expensive, but your best strategy is to start with an inexpensive telephone call to The Firm For Men, at 757-383-9184, or with an online contact. We can help you find a way to make parental visitation enjoyable while maintaining those all-important relationships with your children.