Here is our free legal advice of the day: do not get wasted, order a ride service, and then fall asleep. A New Jersey man visiting friends in West Virginia spent $1,635.93 on a ride from West Virginia back home, five hours away, according to the Washington Post1. If you are divorced, getting around town and meeting up for visitation can feel like an expensive nightmare, but it does not have to be.
Being Divorced: The Day-to-Day Reality
After the emotional turmoil, mental distractions and high costs of a Virginia divorce, you adapt quickly to the day-to-day reality of being divorced. You and your ex-wife worked out a visitation schedule and codified it in the property settlement agreement. You and she worked out child support, physical and legal custody, and all the details.
Now you have to live with those details, like how visitation will physically work. Who goes where? When should you two meet? What if Junior’s soccer schedule interferes with the exact timing of a hand-off?
Avoid Grudges in Parenting
Even so simple and simply joyous a task as receiving your children for your court-approved visitation and parenting time can become a sticking point, if you let it. As you survey the visitation schedule, you may harbor a secret, sullen thought: “She did this to ruin my bowling night,” or “She knows I cannot get all the way across town to meet her by 5:30 on Fridays.”
Avoid carrying a grudge. The schedule worked out for visitation should be as equitable, transparent, and forgiving as both sides would allow. That includes the details like, who drives to whom?
Pro Tip: Get Your Visitation Agreement in Writing
The parenting order (or child visitation schedule) included in the property settlement agreement or divorce decree may actually have wording about transportation. It may specify that the visiting parent does the majority of the driving, but other options and stipulations are possible:
- Stipulate that both parents drive a roughly equal distance to meet in a neutral, public setting
- Stipulate that the non-custodial parent goes to the children’s home to start the visitation and the custodial parent picks them up from the non-custodial parent’s home at the end
- Parents make the exchange at the children’s school or daycare
- The children can be exchanged at a grandparent’s, aunt’s, or uncle’s home
- Whichever parent has the children, at the moment, brings them to the parent who, at the moment, does not have the children
- Specify safety considerations, like staying off busy highways, passing car seats back and forth, driving 5 mph under the speed limit, or identifying indoor shelters to be used while waiting for the other spouse to show up
If you and your wife did not get the details worked out in writing, you can attempt to work out the issue amicably. That move may depend on the atmosphere at the end of your divorce. Were you angry, frustrated, or simply resigned to the divorce?
Getting past anger and resentment may be a challenge, but the practical aspects of post-divorce life demand it. Be conciliatory, realizing you each have to make the visitation work not just for yourselves, but for your children.
Unlike charitable work, the mileage you incur exchanging your beloved children after a divorce is not tax deductible. At first you may not mind driving more than an hour to go get them and another hour to return them to their mother’s home. After a few months, though, the expense, time and stress can take a toll on your wallet and nerves.
If you are the visiting parent and you resent being burdened with the long drive, discuss the matter with your wife without accusation, anger or attitude. She may not have realized that a cross-town drive takes so long, or eats up so many miles. While she may be under no legal obligation to (literally) meet you halfway, she may be willing to, for three reasons:
- Meeting halfway returns the children to her faster, giving her more time with them
- Meeting halfway gives her “emotional capital” for a future time when she needs to ask you for a favor or courtesy
- Meeting halfway may be convenient to her work, shopping, or the children’s extracurricular activities
Make Parenting Time Feel Like Home
For very little children, say experts at Divorce Magazine, the exchange of children for visitation can seem very artificial. Moms and Dads are “supposed” to live with their kids, not “visit” them. Minimize driving distances to keep the experience as bearable and normal as possible. Avoid treating each car ride as some carnival — you are not the child’s entertainer; you are the Dad. Keep the mood as much like home as possible, both at the exchange and during the car ride, even if you (as non-custodial parent) have to do all the driving.
You need not drive all the way to the law offices of The Firm For Men. You can call us at 757-383-9184 or to schedule a consultation. We are happy to examine your divorce papers to find creative ways to improve visitation schedules, shorten drive times, and better the lives of your children.