Planning a vacation can be a tricky situation in co-parenting arrangements for either party. Often times vacations fall outside of the pre-arranged agreement, extend past original timeframes, and will require some give and take on both sides. Here are some tips for talking with an ex about vacation plans
Look for anything in the custody agreement or court order that explicitly states arrangements regarding vacation time as well as holidays. Does either of these take precedence over regularly scheduled time? Is there a statement about permissions, especially when taking the child(ren) out of state or even out of the country? Is there anything regarding notice and if so, how much notice is to be given? Are the terms clear? If you do not have direct answers for any of these questions it may be practical to consult an attorney.
If there’s nothing directly addressed in the agreement the best place to start is to have a conversation with the other parent and discuss your plans. You can do this even if provisions exist within the agreement and perhaps changing or modifying the agreement is in order. Work on creating a plan that works best for everyone and then get it in writing.
A mediator/attorney would be the last resort to work out any disagreements. Your goal is to keep the communication civil and productive and share how the child(ren) would benefit from such a vacation. Working with your child’s co-parent will make this process go a lot smoother.
Most disagreements and issues can be avoided simply by providing plenty of notice to the other parent. Simply stated, this would mean notifying them as soon as your plans have been made, even if there’s a notice provision in the court order or custody agreement.
If there’s a 30-day notice clause stated that it’s important to remember that’s a minimum required notice. Do not wait until the last minute. It may also be necessary to discuss any vacation plans prior to finalizing any payments or commitments to airfare, lodging, etc. just in case there’s resistance from your child’s co-parent and dates or times need to be altered.
If any genuine conflicts occur, remember that it’s in the best interest of your child(ren) to be reasonable and flexible with your child’s co-parent. For example, if there’s an unavoidable conflict such as a family wedding on the other side, it’s important to consider that when finalizing plans. Clearly a reschedule of your vacation would be reasonable in order to avoid missing such important life events. Also, avoid scheduling vacations during the other parent’s special time or important dates, if at all possible, such as birthdays and holidays.
It is important to provide your child’s co-parent with as much information as possible to help them feel better about the vacation. You should include destinations, arrival and departure times, mode of transportation with details (i.e. flight numbers and airline), location and type of lodging, travel companions including relationships to those people. Obviously, any cost information is not necessary, but provide as much detail about the actual trip as possible.
Just as a common courtesy and on the outside chance there is a conflict let the other parent know first. Wait to tell the child(ren) until the other parent has had ample opportunity to respond. This common courtesy allows both parents to discuss conflicts, concerns, and requested changes prior to adding in the excitement of the child(ren).
If there are any required forms, such as passport and visas, birth certificates, etc. necessary for your travel, it is important to gather them early. Allow plenty of time for the other parent to review and sign the forms. If there’s an unavoidable conflict, this also allows time for a court order to be enforced, if necessary.
Not necessarily a specific time, but a general idea, for communication with the co-parent stuck back home would suffice depending on what works best for everyone. This could be a phone call before breakfast or after dinner, for example. If possible, use some type of video-calling like Skype or Facetime. It is important to keep in mind any time zone differences as well when working out good times to talk.
A good idea here would be to write it all down for both your child(ren) and the co-parent. Although not legally obligated to set this up with the other parent, doing so will go a long way towards generating goodwill and creating a better environment for both the parents and the kids.