Travel for work is common. We can take our laptops and meet clients or check on the development of a product whenever needed. Although this flexibility is good for our professional development, it can make balancing our personal lives a little more complicated.
This is particularly true when our personal lives include children and divorce.
Those trying to maintain this balance can benefit from a basic understanding of how the system works. When it comes to child custody determinations, the court uses the best interest of the child standard. This legal standard requires the courts to review various factors when making child custody determinations, including:
- Age of child. Older children may have more say in where they spend their time.
- Connection to an area. If one parent lives in a different location, the possibility of moving the child could play a role in the decision. This is particularly true if the child is established within a school community.
- Parents with a history of substance abuse or violence. The courts will also consider any history of substance abuse or domestic violence when making their determination.
One specific consideration that applies to this discussion involves the ability of each parent to care for the child. Work-related travel is generally not problematic if periodic but can become an issue if trips are regular. As such, it is wise for a parent who travels for work to have a plan in place to answer this question to show that the need to travel will not impact their ability to care for their child.
Questions about how to balance parenting plans and work-related travel can arise in two common scenarios. Both are discussed below.
Scenario #1: During the divorce proceeding
Ideally, the divorce proceeding itself provides an opportunity to propose a parenting plan arrangement that allows for work travel while also meeting the child’s needs. This could include a schedule that has business trips occurring while the child is with the other parent or accounts for the child joining on these trips, if feasible.
Scenario #2: After the divorce is finalized
This issue can also arise when the parenting plan is already in place and a promotion or change of job results in increased travel responsibilities not originally planned for within the agreed-upon parenting plan. In this scenario, either parent could request a modification to the parenting plan. This could include one of the options discussed above or another arrangement that works with the schedule and meets the children’s needs.
While navigating the balance between work obligations and familial commitments, it is important to keep in mind that the court focuses on one priority: the best interest of the child. Courts are more likely to agree to a plan that retains this focus.