Practicing Family Law in San Diego, CA is very unique in that many of our clients find themselves in a different state than their child’s other parent, especially if one or both of the parents are in the military. One of the main questions I receive is, “Can we still share custody of our child if we live in two different states?”
The answer to this question is yes. Although it may seem difficult for parents to share custody of a child when the other parent is hundreds of miles away, technology and more recent case law has made it possible for many families to share custody despite distance.
Typically, when making custody orders, a Judge has to decide how parents will have to share both legal and physical custody of their child.
Physical custody orders determine who the child will live with; if the child will live with both parents equally, or if one parent will have visitation with the child. When parents live in two different states, it is usually impossible for the child to live with both parents equally. Therefore, a very typical order may involve the minor child living with one parent, while the other parent exercises visitation during school vacations, holidays, and any other agreed upon visitation. If sharing custody of a minor child requires the minor child to travel via airplane to reach the other parent’s home, the Court has the discretion to order for the parents to share the minor child’s traveling expenses.
Legal custody in the state of California gives parents the right to make decisions on behalf of a minor child. The Court has the discretion to order joint legal custody or grant one parent sole legal custody. In more recent years, I have noticed a shift in the Court’s ruling of legal custody when parents are in two different states and are sharing a minor child. Rather than the typical order of giving sole legal custody the parent with the majority of physical custody, the Court has moved to awarding parents joint legal custody despite the distance. This allows both parents to equally share the right to make medical, educational, and religious decisions on behalf of their child.
In addition, when a parent is in a different state, virtual visitation becomes that much more precious and crucial for parents to remain in contact with their children in between physical visitation. The Court has the discretion to order visits between a parent and a minor child, in addition to physical visitations, via applications such as FaceTime.
If you find yourself in a different state than your child’s other parent and wish to explore your options on what rights you have regarding your child custody and child visitation case, please contact our office for a free consultation.