Do the math – Ask for travel expenses and gain leverage in negotiations.
Parents often ignore the cost of a joint custody and timesharing arrangement until after the case has been mediated or after the court has signed an order. It’s often smarter, and more strategic, to do the math in advance of any mediation or court hearing. Figure out what it costs to transport the children between homes or to other pickup and dropoff points. Calculate fuel, oil, tolls, parking and other travel expenses and determine the monthly total.
A non-custodial parent who has been asked to do all of the driving can sometimes improve his position by asking the custodial parent to pay her fair share of the monthly visitation-related travel expenses. Consider the impact of a motion to reduce child support or spousal support based on the travel expenses. While judges are often reluctant to apportion travel expenses between parents, they generally have the authority to do so. They will exercise that authority in extreme cases, such as when the parties live very far away from each other.
Simply knowing the total costs can be a useful negotiating tactic. A custodial parent who opposes the non-custodial’s efforts to expand his visitation rights can sometimes suppress his efforts by reminding him of the monthly travel costs and how much they would increase under his proposed visitation expansion. In fact, a little knowledge can go a long way in a legal argument to the judge: “Your honor, the Defendant stood here last month and told you how financially strapped he was, how he couldn’t spare another dime in child support. Yet today, he proposes to expand his visitation with the children. His travel expenses alone would increase by $160 per month under his plan. It’s simply not practical.”
If you have any transportation-related issues, I welcome your input.