Divorce is never easy, but when someone has to move away before their case is completed, it can add significant challenges. During this emotional time, spouses may find themselves dealing with complex logistics, confusing paperwork and a longer process overall; however, there are ways to ease some of the issues of a long distance divorce.
Challenges of Long Distance Divorce and How to Cope
Planning for potential issues is the best way to handle your long distance divorce. The following are a few situations you may face:
1. Parenting plans are going to be more complex.
There are far more challenges to consider when co-parenting from two different locations. For one, school-age children can’t live in two different states during the school year. It’s also necessary to consider who will be responsible for making decisions related to school, religion, health care and more.
When facing parenting time questions and legal decision making options, put your kids’ needs first. It may mean you sacrifice more time with them than you would like, but everything should be done with their best interests in mind. Think about school districts, friends, activities and their relationship with the other parent.
If your children are young, do some research and seek the advice of qualified professionals. Babies and toddlers have very different attachment and development needs. Take those to heart, so they have the opportunity to grow and create secure attachments with each parent. These relationships will be the foundation for their lifetime.
2. Scheduling will be difficult and potentially expensive.
If you end up disagreeing about aspects of your case, the court may schedule an evidentiary hearing or a trial. These hearings may be more difficult to schedule and attend for a party who lives out of state. From the cost of transportation and lodging to the time away from work, long distance divorce proceedings aren’t inexpensive.
Before filing for divorce, consider your options. The collaborative divorce process offers a more flexible option. Spouses work with their attorneys and other collaborative professionals to schedule times to meet, outside of a courtroom, to brainstorm outcomes. Although this still requires an investment of time, there’s more flexibility when you don’t involve the court system.
3. State laws can be different confusing.
Every state has different laws regarding divorce. The party who moves out of state will need to find an attorney licensed to practice in the state in which the divorce is filed, even if that is not the state where the party resides. This may mean they have to communicate via phone and email rather than face-to-face.
The situation gets more complicated if your children move out of the state. In many cases, after a certain amount of time, the state in which they reside may have some say regarding parenting time and other arrangements. If this applies to you, be sure to contact your attorney right away. Someone knowledgeable and approachable will be your lifeline to getting through the divorce process from afar.
4. It will require more legwork on your part.
When you’re near your attorney or spouse, signing documents, asking questions and dropping off documents is pretty easy. Although it’s normal to use email, fax and phone during a divorce, it may take more of your time. Differing time zones can make it easy to accidentally miss an appointment and delay your divorce.
Clear communication and calendared reminders can help you keep track of appointments. To cope with your long distance divorce, you’ll want to be upfront with your attorney regarding what access and comfort level you have with technology. If you don’t know how to use a scanner, you’re going to need to do some research into local services to assist you. If you’d prefer to schedule video conferences, rather than phone calls, tell your attorney.
5. It could end up costing more or taking longer.
Most likely, your attorney will need to do more hands-on work for you if you’re not local to assist with some of those tasks. More billable hours means more legal fees. Delays in scheduling due to travel arrangements can also slow down your divorce.
Talk with your attorney about their expectations, and yours, during the divorce. How often will you need to fly back? Can you consolidate meetings into a few days to reduce the number of trips back and forth? Is there a way to simplify the document signing process? The more you know, the better you’ll be able to prepare – mentally, emotionally and financially.
Collaborative Long Distance Divorce
If both spouses are willing to communicate, cooperate and compromise, a collaborative divorce may be a good option for you. It will keep you out of the courtroom while giving you an opportunity to come to a mutually agreeable outcome and move forward with your lives.
Contact a professional at Best Legal Choices to discuss your long distance divorce and learn more about why the collaborative process could be right for you.
Mary Ann Hess started her legal career at a well-established firm that focused on highly complex family law cases. That early experience gave Mary Ann litigation skills involving complex issues related to all issues involving families.