Whether you are newly divorced and need to recharge, or have been divorced for some time and are just looking for a getaway, taking a vacation is something we all look forward to. However, when there are children involved it gets a bit more complicated than just picking up and heading to the beach. Outside of the usual pre-planning required when travelling with children, you will also need to consider your the arrangement that you have with your Ex.
When you initially separate it is highly recommended that you and your spouse draft a separation agreement. This document will outline the terms of your separation and should include all the relevant information about the custody of your children and your parenting arrangement. This can then be further defined in a parenting plan. It is not required that you create these documents but it is highly recommended as they allow you to refer back and see exactly what you both agreed to. In one or both documents you may wish to address the topic of travelling with your children. Will the other parent’s consent be required? Will it need to be written consent? If the travel interferes with the custody schedule will that time be made up? It is a good idea to address these and other questions from the get go so that you and your Ex will not run into further disagreement down the road.
Do you need consent?
If you have not previously discussed travel, and you and your Ex share custody, it is likely that you will need their consent before travelling with your child(ren). When travelling abroad you may be asked to produce a consent form, this is written permission from your Ex allowing your child(ren) to leave the country. In part two of this series we will further discuss consent forms and all the required documentation. If you are travelling within the country you will not need your Ex’s consent unless your travel violates your arranged custody schedule. For example if you are currently on a 2-2-3 custody schedule you cannot take your kids on a five day camping trip without your Ex consenting to the schedule change. In situations such as these it is good idea to offer make up time; your Ex will be more likely to consent if they don’t feel like they are losing their time with the child(ren).
If your Ex has waived their parental rights or previously stated that their consent will not be required for travel it would be wise to bring a document, such as your separation agreement or a court order, stating this information. This eliminates the need for a consent form and can save you time and frustration at the border.
What if they won’t give their consent?
Your Ex may deny your request for permission to travel with your child(ren). If the topic was not covered in your separation agreement, and they have custody of the child, then they have every right to do so. In this situation it is important that you remain calm. It is likely that your Ex misunderstands something and that the issue could be resolved through a conversation. If you feel your Ex is being unreasonable and talking out the issue is not a possibility though, you could turn to mediation or arbitration. Both these options involve a third party person who helps you come to a decision. In the case of mediation the final decision is a recommendation but in arbitration the final decision states what will happen. Though these tactics may be effective, moving beyond personal negotiation can become costly and result in bitter feelings. You want your vacation to be a positive experience so whenever possible we recommend that you try to work with your Ex to do what’s best for both of you and your child(ren).
Co-parenting can be challenging. It may be difficult to have to ask for someone else’s permission to do something with your own child(ren). It is important to remember though, that they are also the parent of your child(ren), and you would hope they extended the same courtesy were the roles reversed. Maintaining a civil relationship is the key to successful co-parenting. Your vacation is meant to be fun and relaxing and your children are no doubt excited, so don’t get caught up in negotiations with your Ex and lose sight of the end goal which is a fun and enjoyable vacation.
Thistoo can help you create your own separation agreement and make sure that you cover all the bases when separating from your spouse.