As school lets out and summer gets underway, many parents are planning trips with their children. Whether you’re planning to go to a theme park, camping, or to visit family, vacation planning when you are divorced and have joint custody can be complicated. It can be even more complicated when you want to take your children out of state.
It is not uncommon for parents to be unsure of what the rules are when it comes to interstate travel with their kids post-divorce. Do you need your co-parent’s permission? What happens if your child’s other parent doesn’t want you to take the kids? What happens when you don’t want your co-parent taking your kids out of state? If these or any similar questions are on your mind, you are not alone.
At Hunt Law Firm, PLLC, we know how stressful it can be to plan a family vacation when you share custody of your children, especially if this is the first vacation you are taking post-divorce. Below we’ve provided some helpful tips to make the process easier. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip #1: Review Your Standard Possession Order Before Booking Your Trip
Many of the questions parents have about interstate travel with their kids can be answered by their existing custody agreement, standard possession order (SPO), or parenting plan. Often, when going through a divorce, parents will outline provisions for holidays, school breaks, and vacations in their SPO. They may also outline rules regarding whether a parent requires permission to take their child out of state in their custody agreement or parenting plan.
Tip #2: Open a Dialog with Your Coparent
One way to avoid conflict with your coparent when planning a vacation with your kids is to communicate with your coparent early on in the process. This is particularly important when your custody order requires that the other parent provide permission for out-of-state travel. By keeping your coparent updated on the planning process, you can get a sense of how they are feeling about the trip, and you have the opportunity to allay any of their potential concerns.
Things you may to discuss with your coparent include:
- When and where the trip is
- Who you will be visiting and/or the purpose of the trip
- How long the trip will be
- How to reach you or the children in case of an emergency
- Whether the trip will impact the existing visitation schedule
You may also wish to provide contact information and a plan for how your child’s other parent can stay in touch with them during the trip. This can be particularly helpful if this is your first trip post-divorce and your coparent is anxious about the kids being away.
Tip #3: Be Flexible & Prepared to Compromise
When planning a trip post-divorce, you should be prepared for a give and take process. Depending on your summer visitation schedule, it may be necessary to compromise on the dates for your trip to avoid interfering with plans your coparent has. For example, if your trip will require your coparent to give up days that they would normally have with the kids, you should seek to make an agreement with the other parent in advance and should have a plan for how they can make those days up in the future. Similarly, do not be surprised if your coparent is also planning a trip with the kids. If these trips overlap or otherwise interfere with each other, you and your coparent will need to try to work it out.
Tip #4: Make Sure All Documentation Is in Order
While not every custody order requires parents to get written consent from their coparent for out-of-state travel, it may be worth having this in writing if you think a conflict in the future will arise. Having a record of the agreement between you and your child’s other parent can not only help you if a conflict arises, but it can be helpful as a reference document. You may wish to send your coparent a written document outlining the details of your trip, including contact and emergency information, flight info, accommodation info, etc. This way, if something comes up and they need to reach you while you are away, they can.
You should also check your custody orders to determine if there is any additional documentation you need when planning an interstate or international trip. In some cases, parents must provide specific information in writing, and you want to be sure you are complying with your court order.
Tip #5: Reach Out to Your Attorney If You Need Help
It is not uncommon for parents to disagree about out-of-state travel when they share joint custody. This can be especially true in high-conflict situations. Unfortunately, some parents use their children as pawns and will do everything they can to make their coparent’s life more difficult, including refusing to let their children go on vacation with them.
If you are having issues with a coparent that won’t adhere to your court-order custody agreement or SPO, you should reach out to a skilled attorney for guidance. Your lawyer can help you navigate the problem, and should it be necessary, they can help you request court enforcement of the custody order.
At Hunt Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped countless parents deal with complicated custody situations. To discuss your case with an experienced lawyer, contact our law firm today.