With spring break upon us and summer just around the corner, many families are looking forward to annual family vacations. A lot of effort and money goes into vacation planning. And for divorcing or divorced parents, the possibility of a former spouse interfering with a planned vacation becomes yet another logistic to consider. Here are five tips for pleasant vacation planning.
Before you sign the custody agreement
1. Set out clear holiday and vacation rules
People often spend months negotiating a fair child custody agreement, and some even resort to court-ordered custody agreements. Such custody orders typically include vacation and holiday time for both parents. But unless holiday and vacation rules are laid out clearly, planning a getaway with the kids can become a point of contention.
2. Clarify which weeks belong to each parent
Sometimes, like during spring break or Labor Day weekend, both parents may want to travel with the kids at the same time. Avoid this type of conflict by spelling out in a court order which weeks each party gets to spend with the kids. If you can’t sort out exact timing during the divorce, then at a minimum, include a provision in the custody order whereby one party gets its choice of vacation weeks in even years and the other party gets its choice in odd years.
3. Don’t agree to restricted travel
Parties can also agree, or a court may order, to restrict the right to travel with children beyond a certain mileage radius, outside a particular geographical area or outside the country. Some parents agree to these restrictions rather than fight them, but this is shortsighted. Even if a party has no immediate plans to travel a significant distance, and even if both parties are unconcerned about the other party traveling long distances with the children, they need to consider that, in the future, traveling a greater distance may become important. At that point, they will not want to go back to court to modify an order to allow unrestricted travel.
When planning a vacation
4. Sign and notarize a travel consent form
Many people do not realize that the non-traveling parent can prevent the traveling parent from leaving the country with the children, dashing all hopes of that exotic Caribbean vacation. In order for children to be taken out of the country, not only do they need valid passports, but both custodial parties also need to provide authorization. This often requires signing a parental consent form in the presence of a notary.
5. Require detailed travel and contact information
When traveling with children, even domestically, it’s helpful if the custody order stipulates that the traveling party must provide full information in advance of travel. This includes specific travel documentation, such as flight numbers, arrival times, departure times, hotel information and a contact number where the children can be reached for regular communication or in case of emergency.
Whatever the vacation provisions, remember that kids enjoy travel time with their parents. Preventing the children from enjoying this time in order to exact revenge on a former spouse by making life difficult for them will only hurt the kids in the end.
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