The start of summer brings with it neighborhood barbecues, lazy pool days, and of course, the family vacation. Many of us reflect fondly on childhood memories of time spent at the beach or the lake with our parents. For separated and divorced parents, however, the proverbial “family vacation” can present a whole new set of challenges. Will you travel alone with the children, or will you invite your ex? Do you both want to travel with the children during the same week? Who pays? Will new significant others be invited? Are you allowed to travel out of state? Do you have the kids’ passports? By following a few simple tips, the family vacation can still go off without a hitch, resulting in a memorable trip for all.
1. Read your Separation Agreement or Custody Order AGAIN. Once you signed it or the judge rendered her decision, you were probably hoping that everything was finished and you would never have to look at the agreement or the court order again; however, if you and your ex-spouse have a Separation Agreement or a Court Order for child custody, read it again. It likely contains the answers to many of your questions with respect to the do’s and don’ts of traveling with the kids this summer. A quick reading of these documents will get you up to speed on the rules of the game and likely save you many headaches as you plan your vacation.
2. Decide who is going. It may sound simple, but one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you intend to invite your ex to accompany you on the trip. If you and your ex-spouse still have a good relationship with one another, a vacation together may work out just fine; however, more often than not, the answer to this question will be no. If you decide not to invite the ex, are you going to invite your new significant other? Before answering this question, make sure you have followed Tip #1 above and consulted your child custody paperwork to make sure that having your significant other accompany you on a vacation with the children is permissible.
3. Pick your vacation dates as soon as possible. Nothing will mess up your vacation plans quicker than learning that your ex has scheduled a vacation with the kids during the same week for which you have purchased non-refundable airline tickets and pre-paid a resort suite. To avoid such complications, notify your ex-spouse as soon as possible with respect to when you wish to schedule your vacation with the children. Many agreements and court orders require parents to notify one another by early spring of which weeks they intend to exercise their summer custodial time with the children.
4. Give a copy of your itinerary to your ex-spouse. Once your vacation plans with the children have been finalized, give a copy of your itinerary to your ex. While he or she should not disrupt your fun time with the kids, he or she does need to know how to contact you and the children in case of an emergency.
5. Make sure you have all the travel documents you need for the children. If your vacation involves travel outside of the United States with the children, make sure you have all of the appropriate travel documents for the children.
The consent of both parents is needed to apply for a passport for a minor, and if you and your ex are not on good terms with one another, he or she could foil your summer trip to Paris by refusing to give his or her consent to obtain a passport for your child. In such cases, court intervention may be necessary to ensure the other parent’s cooperation; thus, planning ahead is critical.
6. Establish a call schedule. While you are away with the children, the other parent should be able to have reasonable telephone or other electronic contact with the children. It is a good idea to go ahead and establish a schedule of when these calls or Skype sessions will occur before you leave for your vacation.
7. Put it in writing. In addition to giving your ex-spouse a copy of your itinerary, once you have established when you will be traveling, where you will be staying, and when the other parent will be contacting the children while you all are on vacation, put it in writing. Memories often fade, and you will be ever so thankful that you sent that confirmation email to your ex-spouse when he or she later tries to say that you did not
keep him or her informed of your travel plans.
Jaime Humphries Davis is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and partner with thefamily law firm of Gailor & Hunt, PLLC. She can be reached at 919-670-2925, Jdavis@gwhlaw.com, or visit www.gailorwallishunt.com.
Brought to you by Raleigh Divorce Lawyer Jaime H. Davis