If the Court orders relocation either through agreement of the parties or during a hearing, one of the factors the Court looks into is what the transportation costs are going to be for the non-custodial parent.
What does this mean in plain English?
If my spouse is the one that relocates the kids, how much is it going to cost me to see my kids?
One thing that we know is that long distance travel and transportation costs can be extremely expensive in certain situations. We’ve seen various costs associated with transportation ranging from a small amount of gas money for a trip, to extensive airfare associated with overseas and international travel.
The factors for costs of the transportation differ on where the parents live, depending on if it’s a flight situation, whether there is an airport hub or multiple connecting flights and depending on the age of the child if they can fly without an adult. These different factors will all affect the transportation costs associated with the relocation.
So when making my long distance agreement, what do I need to take into consideration for the costs?
Let’s use an example that your child is 2 years old when you agree to a relocation of the other party with the child, that would equal at least 16 years of transportation expenses associated with your time-sharing with the minor child. Multiple that by each child if you have more than 1 child.
To start to get an idea of the costs involved, let’s say in the example above the long distance timesharing was limited to:
- one full month (30 days) during the summer for the
noncustodial parent, and
- then some time at Christmas (how about 10 days?), and
- let’s also include every other thanksgiving and spring break.
* this is not necessarily a normal schedule, it’s just an example.
Christmas is one of the most expensive times to fly as children are normally out of school at that time and it is a peak travel time; this is usually true for Christmas, Thanksgiving, spring break, and summer break. These breaks all turn into good periods of time to make up time for the noncustodial parent if you live 2,000 miles away from each other; as every other weekend is not likely going to occur. The transportation costs are going to be higher than a weekend in September, as these periods are the most regularly traveled periods. This has to be factored into the analysis of payment of transportation costs.
So if in the example the noncustodial parent is flying in to pick up the child that would be a roundtrip ticket home and then to bring the child back and then fly back would be another roundtrip ticket plus the child’s roundtrip ticket. So just for one timesharing break if you bring the child back to the noncustodial’s home that could be a number of roundtrip tickets and if you multiply that over two to four times per year and then multiple that by 16 years, the costs associated with the timesharing could be substantial while the child is a minor. Keep in mind there are a lot of other variables for timesharing, which could necessitate additional costs associated with transportation. So again this is a very important factor to remember to remember that this may not just be someone paying for a tank of gas for a 3-hour round-trip drive from city to city.
How do people figure the payment of the transportation costs out?
Of course we have to give the normal legal answer that every situation is usually different.
Why is this so? Why can’t it be one size fits all?
Well, there are different situations that necessitate different results:
- Sometimes parties will split the costs pursuant to a percentage either 50/50, 75/25, 90/10 – dependent on a whole host of factors, or
- Sometimes one party bears all the costs, again this is based on each parties’ set of unique circumstances
- and then again it can be taken into consideration for child support and the Courts can take into consideration for a deviation from the child support guidelines based upon the expenses associated with the noncustodial parent’s timesharing. Again, we stress the word “can”, the Court is free to Order what they feel is in the best interest of the child and what is fair and just for each situation. The parties can settle out of Court for payment that they deem to be fair as well if the Court will approve it.
What if I want more time?
In some situations the parties are able to fly in for weekend timesharing or if they lived close they can drive if the financial circumstances allow for this type of timesharing. Again, flights to and from distant locations for a short weekend are less prevalent. Sometimes we will see flights in to a locale and staying in a hotel or apartment near the other party’s residence for weekend timesharing, but again, the most frequent long distance time-sharing does not include more than about 5-8 weekends out of the year. This is an option to use floating weekends that can occur during the year at the request of the noncustodial parent, so it won’t be 26 every other weekends during the year, but it will be almost monthly contact with the minor child.
Again, this article does NOT suggest that relocations are always granted, but merely that IF the relocation is agreed to or Ordered by the Court, everyone needs to look at the transportation costs as this is a big issue in most cases. The Courts look at many factors in deciding a relocation, but this is not the topic of this article.
In conclusion it’s very important to keep this very potentially expensive factor in mind when you’re agreeing to or formulating a long-distance timesharing schedule, or an agreement based upon a proposed relocation.
Our office deals with relocations on a regular basis and you can give us a call at (813) 272-2345 to set up a consultation relating to your proposed relocation or if you are the noncustodial parent and you are objecting to a relocation. Sometimes it’s also helpful to speak to an attorney if either party is thinking about agreeing to the relocation and wishes to have more information or have an attorney assist in the process of negotiating the long distance timesharing and payment of transportation costs
By: William S. Foley, Esq.