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Travel Drama: what do you do?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
Ok, I'm going to try to keep this short and unemotional.

DH and I live a couple thousand miles from the kids, and we fly them out when we can to visit. DH used to try to fly out every month, but this was prohibitively expensive, plus all their interaction had to be at hotels and in restaurants instead of home, and they couldn't interact with us as a family in our home. We have them every summer (45 days), spring break, half of the Christmas break, and every second Thanksgiving. Every one of these trips requires the purchase of 4 plane tickets (1 for each kid, plus one round trip for DH to pick them up, and one to drop them off). So, as you can imagine, this is incredibly expensive and very time-consuming. If we can get everything scheduled just so, it's possible to pick them up and bring them back the same day and only have to miss one day of work each direction, but with travel delays and high fares (times 4) this isn't always possible. Plus, there are sometimes travel delays, and DH will end up paying for the occasional hotel and rental car and missing more work when that occurs.

We also fly out to see them sometimes during shorter breaks.

Where they live is fairly expensive to get to (it's not a major airport), and during holiday travel the cheapest fares can easily be $500 per ticket, though sometimes (non-peak) we get lucky and get $300 seats.

The children's mother sometimes will cooperate enough to drive them the whole 10 minutes to the airport, sometimes not. She fusses that she has to take time off work (seriously, your 20 minutes versus his 2 days?). So, sometimes he has to rent a car or hire a cab to get them to where they need to be, which isn't ideal because of money, time, and proper safety seats, but I digress.. This trip, (Thanksgiving), DH and kids missed a flight and will get back later than scheduled, so she got furious and actually filed a police report for not having them back in time. Seriously. Mind you this is the first time he's EVER had them back late in 5 years! She said she wants to force him to visit them there, which, as I mentioned, is really a horrible way to interact and feels nothing like family time. Hotels and restaurant food, rental cars. No family. And let's face it, DH has a full-time job, so the amount of time he could spend over there is pretty small.

Oh, and she's never paid a cent of any of this travel, nor traveled with them to drop them off or pick them up. All of the stuff in the decree is the default for living 100 miles apart. There are no provisions for living as far apart as we do, so we try to handle it between adults.

We also do as much "cheap contact" as we can manage: phone calls, video calls twice weekly (though she often blows us off for these, so we don't always get to talk to them, even though we let her choose the times), cards, etc. We set up an online calendar to share notes of what the kids are up to (so we know when DSS is in football, etc., and can ask about it). We update our side but she has told us she will no longer update hers. sigh.

So, I'm interested in a couple questions:

1) If you are in a long-distance scenario, who pays for travel, how much is there, and who travels with the kids if they are too young to go on their own?

2) Any other tips for cheap alternatives? We use frequent flyer miles when we can, but those are rapidly becoming worthless as airlines charge more and more miles for trips.

3) I have no experience with police reports (thankfully). Are they likely to do something because he missed a flight and the kids were late getting home? She filed something a few years ago when her daughter used a proper anatomical word and the mom thought this must indicate abuse(!). The cops interviewed the kids and told her there was no problem.

Please note: I am asking for advice concerning the situation that exists. I am not asking for any opinions on the current living situation. Thanks!
post #2 of 37
Thread Starter 
One more thought:

I often read this forum thinking, "Wow, we don't have most of these problems -- I guess our situation isn't bad at all. We're all grown-ups. Good thing the kids' mom is sane lately," etc. And then something like this happens and I realize, she only appears sane because we do everything for her and her way and never argue. She'll have major medical procedures done on the kids, not tell us (he has joint legal, so in theory, he gets a vote), and just send a bill. We don't fuss. She makes unilateral decisions about pretty much everything, and we play along. Pick your battles, we say. So now we see who we've been dealing with: one travel delay and now there's a police report. UAV.
post #3 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by violet_ View Post
1) If you are in a long-distance scenario, who pays for travel, how much is there, and who travels with the kids if they are too young to go on their own?
Travel by the child to the NCP's home (Every other Christmas, and every summer. 5 weeks total per year there):
Officially, NCP is supposed to fly here to pick her up, and I am to fly there to pick her up at the end of her visit. Airfare is split 50/50--each adult paying for their own R/T and half of DD's. (One R/T can easily be over $1000... DD and I are in the US, and he is in Europe.)
(Unofficially, I have been flying her there and back because my schedule allows me to do so, it saves the cost of one R/T, and she gets an extra day or two of vacation with her dad because he doesn't have to use up vacation days to pick her up.)
NCP travel to child's home: Whenever he wants, no limitations other than 2 weeks notice, with default times in case of scheduling problems (1st half of odd-numbered months). 100% his expense. He has declined to exercise any of this visitation "on principle" for at least a year and says he will never visit here again.
Custody agreement states that DD will not travel unaccompanied without the express permission of both parents until she is 16 years old.
Child support set very low to take into account NCP's travel expenses.

Quote:
2) Any other tips for cheap alternatives? We use frequent flyer miles when we can, but those are rapidly becoming worthless as airlines charge more and more miles for trips.
No tips. If you find any, I'd love to hear them. The cost is killing me too.

Quote:
3) I have no experience with police reports (thankfully). Are they likely to do something because he missed a flight and the kids were late getting home?
Unlikely. The police really can't do much. She'd have to file with the courts claiming he was in violation of the court agreement. For him to be found in contempt, she'd also have to prove that he did it on purpose and/or regularly failed to follow the court order. I think. Not likely for one missed flight. But I am not a lawyer, so don't bank on that.
post #4 of 37
Geez Ione. That situation is really unfair. Have you and your dh thought about enforcing the custody this summer, i.e., "if you don't pick her up, you don't get to see her this summer?"

It's great that you want your dd to have a relationship with her dad, but if he's shouldering 0% of the burden this early in the game... I'm just sayin', maybe this is on him either way. You can't force somebody to be the kind of dad you want them to be.
post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post
Geez Ione. That situation is really unfair. Have you and your dh thought about enforcing the custody this summer, i.e., "if you don't pick her up, you don't get to see her this summer?"

It's great that you want your dd to have a relationship with her dad, but if he's shouldering 0% of the burden this early in the game... I'm just sayin', maybe this is on him either way. You can't force somebody to be the kind of dad you want them to be.
I don't have a DH, so it's just me. He has been reimbursing me for 50% of the travel, but always with much complaining about how unfair the whole thing is (to him). (Underpaying child support, though, since April '07, but only by a few $/mo, because he has conveniently "forgotten" about the automatic cost-of-living increase. Not far enough behind for anything to be done, however.)

I'm not ready to put it all on him yet and stick to the strict letter of the agreement, because he has a phobia about flying and DD needs to fly and would not do well on a plane next to a panicking adult who's popping tranquilizers and booze just to get through the flight but is still panicking badly enough to worry flight attendants. And because that would cost even more (3 R/Ts instead of 2). And because DD wants to know that I'm in the same country as her even if she can't see me.
post #6 of 37
Did he move away from the kids, or did she move the kids away from him? Because if he moved away from her and the kids, then the responsibility is on him to pay for travel. My ex pays for 100% of our kids' travel, and he has to travel to pick them up and drop them off or arrange for someone else to do it. I have met them halfway before, but I'm not obligated to do so.
post #7 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mothra View Post
Because if he moved away from her and the kids, then the responsibility is on him to pay for travel. My ex pays for 100% of our kids' travel, and he has to travel to pick them up and drop them off or arrange for someone else to do it. I have met them halfway before, but I'm not obligated to do so.
Not necessarily. We moved away but don't bear 100% of the cost, and the court would have ordered it split even more evenly if we hadn't offered what we did. His travel expenses are not calculated in child support (though they probably would be if we'd asked), but his parenting time is.

The parent who is beginning their custodial time picks my step-daughter up. Mom pays her own RT ticket and one-way for her daughter, we pay the cost of my husband's RT ticket plus one-way for my step-daughter. That way we are free to use frequent-flyer programs, buy well in advance, etc, and mom can wait until the last minute if she so chooses.

My husband travels there about once a month and we pay that entire cost. He usually rents a car, but we have friends in the area so he doesn't have to pay for a hotel and it feels more "homey" to them both.

Pick-up times are supposed to be between 7am and 5pm when she flies, but occasionally they both use earlier flights if that's all that is available on their preferred airline, but they do check with the other parent before buying tickets if that is the case. There is some flexibility written into the agreement because of the potential for flight delays, etc., and both parents have cell phones to stay in contact if there are issues. They are required to provide the other parent with all travel information so they can track the flight and be updated about any delays.

ACcording to the agreement the parent is supposed to travel with her, but her step-dad often picks her up from here, and we had a friend (the one husband and step-daughter stay with when he is out there, so someone she knows well) fly out with her this past summer because I was 38 weeks pregnant.

We always take her to the airport, but the agreement doesn't say anything about where mom is supposed to pick her up. She always checks that we can bring her to the airport, and we prefer it, so we always do. Mom sometimes brings her to the airport out there, sometimes my husband meets her at school and takes her by mom's to pick up her stuff. I think the agreement says he will pick her up 1.5 hrs after school at her mom's house... he has been held to the time, but not the location. Our sense is that she generally remains flexible because she needs us to do the same, and in some ways we are more protected than she is in the agreement.

We have her here the whole summer minus 2 weeks, all of Christmas break every other year, 1/2 Christmas and a week at Thanksgiving the other years, and every spring break. My husband has her out there one weekend a month (including 3 long weekends) and two additional weeks (non-consecutive) out there during the school year.

This is long enough, so I will try to post again about money-saving ideas.
post #8 of 37
o.p. can i ask who moved away? i know the only part of my court documents with custody is that ex cannot leave the country with d.s with out me. and i dont mean with out my permission, i mean without me. physically there.
post #9 of 37
I don't have much experience with long-distance visitation (we're 90 minutes apart), but I can tell you that the police really aren't going to do much (other than maybe come talk to you) about the delayed flight.

If the ex brings your husband into court over a late flight, the court will likely not do anything. Generally, the court doesn't deal with "life happens" issues. I'm assuming he called and otherwise notified her he'd be late; that's about all that really needs to be done.

My own husband's ex accused him of wanting to blow off his time with SD, because he'd often be 10 minutes late to pick her up, but 10 minutes early to drop her off 45-60 minutes away (hint: Pick-up is during rush hour; he works until 5 and then leaves to go get her. Drop-off is not during rush hour, and he can tailor his departure time if there is construction or weather is bad). Apparently, she ran this by her lawyer and he told her to let it go.
post #10 of 37
I'm also asking which parent moved away from the other. And to the PP, the large majority of courts will expect the move away parent to bear the burden of travel expense. Kind of a 'you made your bed now lie in it" sort of thing.
post #11 of 37
Being blunt, you've got three big "shoulds" in here.

Children should see their parents at their parents homes.
Children should not travel unsupervised.
Children should see their NCP frequently.

Right now, it sounds like point 3 is taking the brunt of the flexibility. What can you do about 1 and 2 instead, and what's your lawyers opinion?
I will point out though- gently- that all parents have to take time off work as a result of their children. Your DH may have to take time off for travel arrangements, but he isn't the one getting the phone calls saying "can you come and get little Harry please? He has a spider up his nose" all the time.
post #12 of 37
how old are your husband's children? My DD has been flying unaccompanied for visits (3 round-trips/year) since she turned 6, and it's really quite safe.
post #13 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CorasMama View Post
how old are your husband's children? My DD has been flying unaccompanied for visits (3 round-trips/year) since she turned 6, and it's really quite safe.
This is true, and we'd love to start this. My little cousin used to do this and there was never an issue. The kids are 5 and 9 though, so the 5-year-old can't do it until she's 8 (since they have to change planes -- that's most airlines' policy, anyway. I'm assuming your DD has a nonstop flight?). And the 9 year old is, umm, how shall I put it gently... kind of a worrier. We told him on this trip that he could come visit on a long weekend if he'd fly by himself, but he got really upset and cried about how he didn't want to meet the stranger (airline employee) who would walk him to the gate to change planes, and what if that person was new and got lost, and what if they didn't let him get lunch and he was hungry... He's not ready for that yet, it seems. Not used to new people (has never even had a babysitter -- only relatives). Every time he flies we have him read the monitors and tell us where to go, but anyway, he's not ready yet. Maybe in a year or two, but even then, I'm betting his mom won't want to cooperate.
post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 
I was just thinking about it, and the whole idea of a "police report" that she claims to have filed is ludicrous. It's a civil issue, so she'd have to sue. And if she sues, almost any modification would likely not work in her favor. What craziness. I imagine the cops thought she was a bit nutty (what wonders she must do for female stereotypes).

"I'm here to file a police report. My children's father did not return the children by 6pm."
"Oh? Are you in contact? Do you know where the children are?"
"Yes, they missed a flight, but they're on their way. I knew they were coming in after 6 anyway, but now it's later than that because of the delay."
"Umm.. sure. Here you go."

I bet that makes it right to the top of the priority list.
post #15 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by flapjack View Post
Being blunt, you've got three big "shoulds" in here.

Children should see their parents at their parents homes.
Children should not travel unsupervised.
Children should see their NCP frequently.

Right now, it sounds like point 3 is taking the brunt of the flexibility. What can you do about 1 and 2 instead, and what's your lawyers opinion?
I will point out though- gently- that all parents have to take time off work as a result of their children. Your DH may have to take time off for travel arrangements, but he isn't the one getting the phone calls saying "can you come and get little Harry please? He has a spider up his nose" all the time.
Nice summary. Well, points 1 and 3 are the ones we have to adjust, as point 2 can't help us yet (DSD is too young).

And yes, good point: of course all parents take time off work for their kids. I wasn't trying to suggest otherwise. Two full days (often more) per trip adds up, though, and can very well preclude any flexibility in point 1 above.
post #16 of 37
I must have missed it - who created the distance?
post #17 of 37
Violet: Could you explain whether it was your DH that moved away from the kids or if the XW moved away from your DH?
post #18 of 37
LOL mtiger-cross post!
post #19 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post
I must have missed it - who created the distance?
Interesting question. As I mentioned, I have no interest in discussing the merits of where we all live or why, but since you asked..

"Cause" is an interesting idea. Technically, he moved. But, she has some well-placed buddies at his company who campaigned for about two years to get him fired (they also worked pretty hard to get me fired, as I'm in a related field -- they failed, but are still trying with me. They barely succeeded with my DH), and given the highly specialized nature of his work, he had to go elsewhere to get a job. And last year, she even had the children stay overnight with the same jerks who are still trying to destroy my career, one of whom harassed me so severely and blatantly that he began to fear his job and eventually had to relocate! Oh, the drama...

So, who should pay travel? Well, the courts would point out that DH moved. But staying was in no way an option in this case.

But all of that is pretty much moot unless we go to court, which we are unlikely to do. So the real issue is how to make it all work out for the kids. Part of that means being able to afford it.
post #20 of 37
It is not always the financial responsibility of the parent who moved away to pay for transportation.

Some courts will take it into consideration when calculating child support, deviation for costs of transportation.

A friend's x moved across country with their child. He has to pay the costs of transportation, but they took that into consideration and gave him a lower child support amount by the average yearly costs of 2-3 plane trips.

Another friend's x moved about an hour away. When they calculated his child support, he got a reduction based upon having to travel every other weekend and one day a week.

As for the police report, they probably did an information report only. If she pushes this in Court they are basically going to laugh her out of the Courthouse. He has no control over flight schedules/delays and missed connections, unless he personally did something to cause it to happen.
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