Every year, more than 100 million Americans take some type of summer family vacation. Those figures are even higher this year, as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, vaccinations have become more accessible and people are eager to venture out after a year or more of sticking close to home.
But vacations can be a touchy subject for co-parents, particularly when it’s the non-custodial parent who is vying to take the child on a trip, especially if it’s a long vacation. When there is a custody order and parenting plan in place, you cannot just pick-up-and-go as you once might have. You must be sure your plans aren’t conflicting with the Court’s orders.
Our Freehold child custody attorneys advise parents to be especially cautious if they’re planning an out-of-state or out-of-country trip - whether you’re the custodial parent or not. The last thing you want is to be accused of child abduction. Even if it soon becomes clear that was not at all your intention, it’s better for everyone if you know you’re both on the same page before you head out-of-town.
Many custodial agreements grant non-custodial parents the majority of summer break time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cleared to take your child wherever you want whenever you want. If you aren’t sure, a quick call to your attorney may resolve this.
If there aren’t provisions in your custody or parenting time agreement for such trips, it may be time to revisit that matter with a post-judgment modification. If you’re able to work through it together and reach an acceptable agreement without involving the Courts, great. But having these sorts of terms formalized can go a long way toward clarifying the terms, keeping both parties on the same page and ensuring the child has the opportunity to have safe, meaningful, fun bonding and life experiences with both parents.
If you’d like to avoid another trip back to Court and think you can work it out with your co-parent, it’s a good idea to take the precautionary measure of having a child custody vacation letter signed by your ex in front of a notary public. Check in with your family law attorney if there is anything you’re unsure or concerned about.
A solid parenting time agreement will usually spell out the terms of vacation time. If you have a parenting time agreement that addresses vacations, be certain that whatever your plans are fit into those terms. Be extra cautious right now in the time of COVID-19. While vaccinations are available for adults and teens, kids under 12 still don’t have access. That might make some co-parents raise concerns about traveling when they normally wouldn’t.
In any case, this is definitely the kind of situation wherein it is better to ask permission first than apologize later. Most of the time, if you and your ex are in good standing and open in your communications, you can reach an agreement about vacations - even ones that aren’t written into your child custody agreement. It’s best to have your plan reviewed by a family law attorney if there is any uncertainty about your legal rights in this regard.
Contact our Freehold Child Custody Attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.