How Far Apart Can Parents Live and Still Have 50/50 Custody?
20 miles is about the max for 50/50 custody.
When people divorce, they fight about two things: money and kids. Money, honestly, is relatively easy most of the time. Kids, on the other hand, not so much.
And parent-time arrangements is often one of the most contentious issues.
A highly sought after parent-time arrangement is 50/50. This is where both parents share an equal number of overnights with their children.
There are a few ways of splitting overnights equally. The simplest way is probably week-on-week-off. Another way is what’s called a 2-2-5, where one parent always have Monday and Tuesday, the other parent always has Wednesday and Thursday, and both parents rotate the weekends. (The five in 2-2-5 means every week, one of the parents has the children five overnights.)
Whatever 50/50 arrangement you are contemplating, you first have to answer a fundamental question: do we live close enough to make 50/50 custody work?
From my experience in many Utah divorce cases, I would say twenty miles is about the max for 50/50.
If you live more than twenty miles away from each other, some difficult problems arise, such as:
If your kids are in school, you generally have to take them to school. You might think, “Hey, twenty miles to school is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.” That’s well and good, and it turns out it’s really hard.
Think about it. You have to drive twenty miles, in traffic, out of your way (it’s always out of the way) to school, then twenty miles, in traffic, back for work. And you have to do this half of every week. That sort of thing really wears on a parent over time.
If your child has dance, football, soccer, debate, whatever, you will run into the same problem with those activities as you do with school. It would be wonderful if parents could find activities exactly in between their homes, but that’s not how life works. One parent, invariably, ends up driving way farther than the other parent for activities.
Your children will almost certainly have more children in the neighborhood in which they attend school. This means one parent will end up trucking their kids to that neighborhood to play with their friends. That’s fine if you live two miles apart. If it’s twenty, though, that’s not an easy thing.
Same with church. A child will be more involved with one congregation than another. It’s just how they work. If this is the case, and you want your child involved in the weekly activities offered by that congregation, one parent will always be traveling.
There are many more things I could mention, but you get the idea.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t do 50/50 if you live more than twenty miles from each other. Some people can make it work — just not many.
We always tend to overestimate our ability to deal with adversity. If there is one thing I’ve learned as a family law attorney it’s this: to make 50/50 custody work, it has to be easy for both parents to be parents. Once things become significantly more difficult for one parent than the other, that parent tends to back off and become less involved in his or her kids’ lives.
Don’t let this happen to you and your family. If you want 50/50 custody, plan accordingly. Find a place close to the other parent. Make things as easy on yourself as possible.
Your family is too important to do otherwise.