In matters where the parents live in different states or even different cities within the same state (usually more than 50 miles apart), there is often a long-distance parenting plan. A long-distance parenting plan usually involves the child or children residing with one parent the majority of the time and spending significant holiday, school break, and summer time-sharing with the other parent. The travel component of a long-distance parenting plan often involves either air travel or significant automobile travel and related costs, which results in the parents incurring more expenses than they would if they lived in close proximity to one another.
Defining Travel Expenses
When considering the sharing of travel expenses, it is very important to first properly define travel expenses. If air travel is involved, are the travel expenses defined as only the airfare for the children only or do they include flights for an adult to accompany the children? Do travel expenses include rental cars and hotels in the event that they are necessary? If so, how is the reasonableness of the expense of a hotel room or rental car defined? At Tampa Bay Family Law & Mediation, P.A., we discuss all of these critical issues with our clients to ensure that they are properly protected.
Pro-Rata Sharing of Expenses
How are the time-sharing transportation expenses shared? The child support statute, section 61.30, Florida Statutes, provides generally that child-rearing expenses should be shared by parents pro-rata in accordance with their financial means. Several appellate courts have held that the expense of transporting a child or children for time-sharing is a child-rearing expense like any other which should be shared by the parents in accordance with their financial means. Aranda v. Padilla, 216 So.3d 652 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017). In other words, time-sharing travel expenses should be shared in the same ratio as the allocation of other expenses such as uncovered medical expenses and extracurricular expenses unless the court finds that a different allocation is necessary to reach an equitable result. McWillson v. McWillson, 192 So.3d 719 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016); Miller v. Miller, 826 So.2d 480 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002).
Reimbursement of Travel Expenses
While not exclusive, there are two (2) different ways that a court typically directs the payment of the time-sharing transportation expenses:
Typically, the court will order one parent to reimburse the other parent with their percentage share within a certain period of time (such as 15 days or 30 days).
Alternatively, if there is a legitimate concern that one party will refuse to pay their percentage share, the court has the authority to calculate an average monthly figure for travel expenses and make an appropriate adjustment (ie., increase or decrease) to the monthly child support obligation.
Nevertheless, in cases where there are travel expenses, these costs can be very significant and it is important to address them correctly and in detail in order to avoid problems after the case is over.
Contact Us Today
If we can assist you with issues related to long-distance parenting plan expenses, child relocation, or other areas of marital and family law, please contact Tampa Bay Family Law & Mediation, P.A.at (813) 251-6222 to schedule a consultation.