Co-Parenting through Vacation Season

Advice for Single Parents Seeking a Stress-Free Summer

by Melissa M. Boyd, Esq.

June 11, 2015

I developed this post as one in a series to help parents and their attorneys plan for the slew of legal co-parenting complications the summer brings. Without the structure of school, even the tightest co-parenting plans are challenged.

Whether an uncoupling was friendly or not, it takes a concentrated effort to find what works for each couple to co-parent successfully. Though every situation is different, and there is no recipe to guarantee positive family outcomes, this is practical advice for how to handle the legal aspects of these commonly faced issues…Child Custody

Arranging a vacation is often a task that, well, causes most to need a vacation. For separated, divorced or single parents, planning a vacation for themselves and their children can be grueling.

Typically single parents have a custody agreement which serves as a parenting plan. However, attorneys may have been vague concerning vacations. Or, parents may not have their agreements finalized yet.

Unfortunately, co-parenting issues stemming from vacations typically present themselves at the last minute, when the vacation is already planned yet is being communicated to the other parent for the first time.

To help, we’ve tied vacation planning to these familiar “Five W’s”:

  • Who

When making vacation plans, it’s important that parents communicate early and often. This avoids any last minute quarreling over changes. Some families start this process as early as March.

While communication between parents is crucial, kids should be left out of the arranging.  The kids don’t need to know which parent made special requests, which made unnecessary denials, or who spent more money. They just need to know that their parents worked hard for them so that they can enjoy their summers.

  • What

When thinking about what type of vacation to take, each parent should try to put themselves in the other’s shoes.  If one would be uncomfortable with a particular activity or accommodation, they shouldn’t do anything similar when it’s their turn for a trip.

All vacation provisions and plans should be agreed upon and put in writing as soon as possible to avoid conflict. Parents should also be held responsible to share detailed vacation itineraries. It must be a provision that the non-attending parent is provided with all details around accommodation, travel times and activities so they feel at ease.

Another hugely important element of choosing a vacation is cost. Parents must be realistic financially when it comes to vacation selection. Parents may have half the resources they had pre-split, and regardless of what the children may be accustomed to, or what the other parent can afford, they need to choose a vacation that is within their means.

Considering finances is also motivation to keep vacation planning peaceful – when parents disagree they may spend significant funds paying attorneys or mediators.

  • When

Attorneys have the opportunity to prevent disputes by setting clear parameters in the parenting plan or custody agreement.

Every family is different and every divorce has its own unique spot on the amicable to nasty scale. Each plan should be customized but clear to avoid any possible confusion down the road. Some plans can be very specific and include pre-determined dates, such as Mom gets the third week in June, and Dad gets the third week in July.  Others may just state that each parent gets one week and dates must be finalized and communicated by a certain date.

Parents should do their best to stick to the schedule. If for any reason they wish to deviate, or don’t have the plan outlined yet, respectful conversations should begin as soon as possible.

  • Where

Everyone enjoys dreaming about where they may go on their next vacation. For divorced and single parents, it’s important to be informed before the mind starts to wander.

If you have the means to travel outside of the country for vacation, there are specific rules regarding passports for children of divorce. Both parents must give consent before a passport is used for any child under the age of 16 unless one parent was granted sole custody- then only the custodial parent’s signature is required.  It is possible to get a passport without the signature of both parents but only when it is needed for the child’s health or a special family circumstance – not a vacation.

Parents who cannot get their former spouse’s support will have to contact an attorney. The most common course of action is to petition for the court to order the ex the sign the application.  Parents who are on the opposing end should also reach out to their lawyer after refusing to sign. Real fears about abduction should be communicated to attorneys and to the Court.

  • Why

The best piece of advice I can give when vacation planning gets stressful is to remember the reason for vacationing in the first place. Vacations are meant to bring families closer together – not farther apart. Parents should be considerate, thoughtful and respectful, with a children-first mentality. Attorneys should have the same children-first mentality in order to guide families toward the best possible outcomes.

View related blog posts here.


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