Can You Take Your Child on a Long Vacation If You Have Shared Custody?
Yes, parents can take their children on long vacations while a shared custody agreement exists. Vacations are an excellent way for families to enjoy each other throughout the year. However, what seems like a fun activity can turn into a massive headache for parents dealing with a shared custody agreement for their child. However, before a parent organizes an extended vacation, they should know how best to approach the situation before committing to plans.
Traveling Out of State Under a Shared Custody Agreement
Shared custody agreements outline many critical details regarding the care of a child between both separated parents. Many shared custody agreements these days have specific provisions regarding holiday schedules and vacations, including out-of-state travel. If a parent wants to take their child out of state, referring to the shared custody agreement is a surefire way to plan any vacation.
However, suppose the shared custody agreement does not include procedures for taking a child out of state. In that case, it is up to the parents to communicate their plans for their child between each other and jointly agree on any trips involving the child.
If a shared custody agreement is still in the process of being negotiated or drafted, a parent should try to avoid planning extended vacations out of state unless they have written permission (notarization of the permission is also advised) from the other parent. Without express permission, a parent could be liable for civil or criminal penalties, which may complicate future custody discussions.
Best Interest of the Child
Many divorced and separated parents should be very familiar with this term as it’s the standard family courts use when issuing opinions on issues that impact a child’s wellbeing. For example, a parent interested in taking an extended vacation should always consider their child’s best interest before making any plans or decisions for that child.
For most, this is a commonsense approach and pretty intuitive. However, not every plan can be that simple, at least in the beginning. If a parent wants to take a child on an extended vacation or travel out of state, they should think about their child’s best interests before approaching the other parent with the idea.
If a vacation would disrupt a child’s education, requiring them to be pulled out of school for a specific time period, or might be too hard on the child, like traveling abroad with a toddler, then it might be a good idea to come up with alternative vacation plans.
What if the Separated Spouse Refuses to Agree to an Out of State Vacation?
This happens from time to time for a variety of reasons. One of the more common reasons is that a divorced couple has difficulties reaching an agreement on issues, which can cause tension and result in disputes over severe or trivial matters. Otherwise, a parent may have a legitimate reason for not approving out-of-state travel, such as considering the child’s age or any underlying health issues.
If a parent is being uncooperative, the parent seeking to take their child on vacation can always petition the court for a ruling on the issue. When a court is presented with an issue involving child custody for an extended vacation involving out of the state travel, they will usually weigh several factors in their decision, including whether this is a yearly vacation the child is expecting to attend, will the vacation be a significant disruption to the child’s schedule, is the child too young to travel, etc.?
Shared Custody is a Never-Ending Negotiation
“Always Be Closing” is the mantra of 1992 blockbuster Glengarry Glen Ross. It may seem strange to haggle with your separated spouse regarding child custody like one would for real estate or a used car, but that’s how many parents feel in these situations.
When a child custody agreement is in place, it creates a schedule for that child until adulthood. They can include weekly and monthly schedules and assigned holidays for the child. This means that any changes to that schedule will not come lightly for some parents. However, by communicating interest in changing your child’s schedule, a parent can begin the process of enjoying a summer abroad with their kid.
Nonetheless, parents with a shared custody agreement should expect to negotiate over changes in a child’s schedule. If a parent wants to travel to Hawaii for two weeks, which would interfere with the other parent’s two weekends with the child, then the parent interested in the vacation should expect to offer alternatives in the child’s schedule to appease the other parent. This could mean providing extra days at the end of the month or allowing the child to spend an assigned holiday with the other parent.
Negotiating a child’s schedule changes under a shared custody agreement can take many forms. However, so long as both parents communicate their interests and show a willingness to compromise for the other, then any schedule change can positively impact everyone, including the child.
Tips for Planning an Extended Vacation
If a parent decides they want to take their child on an extended vacation and believes it is in the child’s best interest, then that parent should consider the following before proceeding:
- Communicate with the other parent about any vacation plans.
- Provide the parent with ample notice of any vacation plans for at least 30 days or more.
- Consider providing the parent with alternate visitation dates if the vacation interferes with that parent’s schedule.
- Provide the parent with a detailed plan for the vacation, including lodging accommodations, travel itinerary, a schedule of activities, and other people traveling with the parent and child.
- Provide the parent with the necessary paperwork, including the child’s passport and visa (if traveling internationally) and documentation of the other parent’s approval for the vacation.
- Tell the child of the trip after the other parent approves it.
Contacting an Attorney
Once a custody agreement is in place, the last thing a parent wants to do is contact an attorney. However, if a parent feels the other parent is unreasonably difficult regarding plans for an extended vacation or has questions about how to approach planning a vacation, then an experienced shared custody attorney can help.