When parents divorce, custody arrangements for their children can come in many forms. Visitation is usually part of a child custody arrangement, especially when children spend most of the time with one parent. Parents are generally entitled to "reasonable" visitation rights. Spelling out the specifics for visitation transportation should be included in your custody arrangement. Doing so avoids confusion and helps ensure that visitation goes smoothly.
Reasons to Plan for Visitation Transportation
Planning for visitation transportation is important for the present time, and for the future. You'll want to set the stage for cooperating as you and your ex-spouse learn to co-parent your children after your divorce is final. Life goes on for both you and your ex-spouse, and spelling out visitation transportation terms can avoid disputes and confusion down the road. Common life events, such as moving, getting re-married or a new job don't have to cause issues for visitation if you've planned ahead.
Some families will have reason to address visitation transportation from the start. Some parents will need an agreement because they don't get along and just don't have the ability to cooperate and be flexible. Parents may live in some distance apart or have scheduling concerns, for example, work and commuting schedules, and will need all details worked out in advance and in writing. Planning can save both parents conflict and the expenses of returning to court if they can't get along.
Specifics for Your Visitation Transportation Agreement
When providing for transportation, think about how pick-ups and drop-offs will be handled in practical terms. Plan for your current situation, and think about whether your plan is flexible enough to handle everyone's life changes, including you, your ex-spouse and the kids.
Elements to include in a transportation plan include:
- Punctuality. Whether it's the start or end of a visitation period, parents should have children ready for their visit, and be on time. The same goes for the end of a visit - children should return at the agreed-upon time, and be ready for whatever's next in their day or evening. Don't forget to provide for return of the children's personal items and whether they will come home with dirty laundry
- Transfer location. Provide for where the transfer for visitation will happen. Most often it's the children's home, but other locations are possible, such as the other parent's home or the children's school
- Neutral transfer location. Some parents won't be able to get along. You can provide for the transfer for visitation to take place at a designated place, such as a social services office, a church or a police station. Decide who will pay the fee for such transfer services. The object is to save your children from conflict and scenes that could be disruptive, harmful or embarrassing
- Responsibility for transportation. State which parent is to provide transportation. Typically, the parent visiting with the children will be responsible for transportation
- Transportation safety. It's a good idea for the parents to agree that safety during transportation is a must. State that children are to use seatbelts and child restraints according to state law. You may want to spell out whether each parent is to provide car seats and boosters. While these items can be pricey, you may want to avoid hauling your child's restraints around - and wrestling to properly install them in the backseat of your car all the time
- Out-of-town and out-of-state transportation. When a parent lives in a distant location, it can be especially important to provide for visitation transportation. The parent exercising visitation typically provides for transportation, but given the logistics and costs, it's wise to provide for the specifics. Address when children will be allowed to fly or use public transportation unaccompanied by a parent, what supervision is required and who will pay the extra costs related to children traveling alone. Sharing transportation costs and responsibilities is also possible. Most parents should want to work out an agreement rather than having a court decide for them
Having a healthy relationship with both parents is important for children when their parents divorce; parents need to keep sight of this and cooperate to make visitation work for everyone.
Questions for Your Attorney
- My joint parenting agreement doesn't provide for who transports the kids for visitation, and my ex-spouse just moved 30 minutes away. He wants me to shuttle the kids for visitation. Isn't this his responsibility? How likely is it that a court will make me do the driving?
- I have sole legal and physical custody of the children, and I'm going to move out-of-state for a much better job. Will I have to pay for transportation for the kids' visitation with their father?
- I just found out that my children's stepparent lets my preschooler ride in the front seat of the car, while she puts her children safely in the backseat. The front seat isn't safe and state law requires young children to use proper car seats or boosters. My ex-spouse won't listen to my concerns, so what can I do?
- My ex-spouse and I can't agree on letting the kids fly alone for visitation. How do the courts usually treat this issue?