Summer has arrived, and for many families, that means family vacations with your children in tow. Before buying your plane tickets and booking your hotel, there are several things you should keep in mind if you plan to travel with your children during or after a divorce:
1. Know how much vacation time you are allotted. Most parenting time orders and shared parenting plans will grant both parents a certain number of days or weeks that can be exercised as “extended parenting time” to allow for vacations and travel. Before booking that month-long cruise around the world with your children, make sure you have sufficient extended time to do so, otherwise you may be wrongfully cutting into the other parent’s parenting time. Additionally, while some parenting plans specifically provide for summer extended time, many plans provide for a certain amount of extended time for an entire calendar year. As such, you want to make sure you don’t use up all of your extended parenting time during the summer if you also hope to take the children on a week-long ski trip at the beginning of their winter break.
2. Give adequate notice. Most parenting plans and parenting time orders will include provisions about the amount of notice that must be given to the other parent in order to exercise your extended parenting time. Make sure that you know the requirements set forth by your specific plan or order and that you plan ahead. You don’t want to be in the position of having to cancel your trip because you only gave 15 days’ written notice to your ex instead of the full 30 days required by your shared parenting plan.
3. Make sure you have your papers in order. If you are traveling internationally with your children, there are several documents you need to have with you in addition to the children’s passports in order for your travel to run smoothly. There are no laws in the United States requiring proof of parental consent when a child travels abroad with only one parent; however, some airlines will not let you board without proof of consent from the other parent. Additionally, the other country to which you are travelling may not allow you to enter or leave without proof of parental consent. As such, it’s always best to travel with a letter of consent executed by the other parent. The letter of consent should be notarized and should include the child’s name and birthdate, dates of travel, destination location(s), and the identity of the person or people with whom the child is permitted to travel. Furthermore, you should bring an extra copy of your decree or other active parenting orders when traveling abroad with your children.
4. Follow the Golden Rule. We all know the Golden Rule- treat others how you would like to be treated. This is a simple tip, but one that is overlooked or ignored all too frequently in the context of divorce. Many parenting plans will include provisions about what type of information needs to be provided to the other parent about your child’s travel plans, and how frequently the non-traveling parent is allowed contact while the child is away; but even if these provisions are not included in your parenting plan, it’s best to treat your co-parent with the same considerations that you hope they’ll give to you when it’s their turn to travel with the child. Provide the other parent with information about where the children will be staying and give a contact number in case of emergencies. Allow your children time to call or Facetime with their other parent while they’re away. When your children are travelling with their other parent, be respectful of their time and limit the duration of your phone calls or Skype sessions to a reasonable amount of time. Children are perceptive, and the more they see their parents behaving respectfully and considerately towards each other, the more they will be able to relax and enjoy their vacation.
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