Travelling With Kids After Divorce
Taking short trips or extended vacations with your family is always a fun, memorable experience. Everyone looks forward to getting out of the house for a few days, whether it’s some place an hour away or on the other side of the world. With all of the anticipation and excitement leading up to a trip, it is essential that you remember to iron out all of the details first.
For divorced parents, just packing up and going on your way is not likely how you’ll be able to go about travelling with your children. In a divorced family situation, there are often guidelines and stipulations within a custody order that lay out the details by which parents must follow in order to take their children on a trip.
Knowing the details regarding travelling with your children after divorce is important so that you'll be able to focus more of your energy on giving your children a vacation that they'll always remember.
Travelling with children after divorce is certainly not an uncommon occurrence. It happens all the time, although it often calls for some additional pre-planning as the trip is being organized. Every situation is unique, but one good place for every divorced or separated parent to start when planning to travel with their children is to review their parenting plan.
Review your parenting agreement for information regarding holidays and travelling with your children. There may be details included in the agreement about when each parent is allotted time to travel or take vacations with your children. If you wish to travel with your children over a more popular vacation time such as spring break or the December holiday season, be aware of any prior arrangement you and your co-parent made on how those times are to be divided over the years. It's common for co-parents to be on a schedule that calls for them to rotate custody over those dates each year.
If you have a trip planned for a time in which you are not scheduled to have parenting time, you should discuss this with your co-parent before making any travel arrangements. You may consider discussing a parenting time swap so that you can accommodate your trip while working to ensure that your co-parent is able to spend their time with your children before or after your trip.
If you and your co-parent cannot work out an adequate parenting time swap, try not to sweat it. It's always a disappointment when plans don't work out, yet it's crucial to consider how conflict could factor into these plans. Allowing disagreements over this trip turn into a full-blown conflict only complicates your co-parenting and could even ruin the trip for you and your children. Instead, consider reformulating your travel plans for dates on which you do have parenting time already scheduled.
In contrast, if your travel plans were for an event that you feel is absolutely vital for your children to attend like a significant family event, talk to your attorney or other family law practitioners to see what your options may be moving forward. They may be able to offer guidance to you on how to handle this situation.
Reaching an agreement with your co-parent on travel dates is a critical first step in planning trips with your children after divorce. Yet just as important as deciding on your travel schedule is ensuring that you have the right documentation to help your trip run as smooth as possible.
Get Your Documentation in Order
Having the right documentation for your children in order before your trip is essential. No matter where you're travelling, thoroughly document your travel agreements and plans for your trip. This will include your travel schedule, names of those travelling with you, details on your methods of transport, information about where you'll be staying, and other key details about where your children will be throughout your trip.
Make sure that you and your co-parent have access to review this information before, during, and after your trip. Consistently documenting your travel schedule and any correspondence with your co-parent related to these plans can help ensure that your trip is a successful one and not leave you running into questions or issues later on.
When travelling outside of Canada, it is recommended that children carry a consent letter even if they are travelling with a parent or legal guardian. While this consent letter may not be a legal requirement, it is still recommended and could be requested by immigration authorities when entering another country or when leaving Canada. This letter should be signed by every person with custodial rights, guardianship rights, or parental authority (specifically, in Quebec) who are not accompanying the child on the trip.
Having the right permissions in place and being able to demonstrate those to immigration officials will help your trip run as smooth as possible. Moreover, documenting these permissions in writing can prove to be hugely influential in helping co-parents to avoid future conflict over the trip. If you are unsure whether or not the trip you have planned will require permissions, speak to your lawyer. They will be able to offer the best guidance as you prepare for your vacation.
Plan for Fun
With all of these details that you have to work out, you may have already forgotten that you're about to set off on an adventure with your children, one that they are probably starting to get really excited about. For many, family trips and vacations only come every once in a while–and maybe even less often for divorced families.
Wherever your travels take your family, do what you can to make it extra enjoyable for your children. Have some games and snacks packed in your bag to help quell boredom or hunger during long drives or flights. An iPod and headphones or a tablet equipped with a few movies will also help get everyone through the journey.
Once you've reached your destination, it'll help to have some kind of a schedule to keep your children on. In particular, try to keep your children on a bedtime or nap schedule that they are used to. It will go for meals and homework. Finally, try and help your children learn something new while on vacation by visiting museums, local monuments, or even showing them things relevant to their own family's history.
All in all, travelling with children after divorce might sometimes feel complicated, but in the end, having a fun trip with your children that they'll always remember makes it worth the trouble.
Regarding COVID-19: Information related to the pandemic is evolving rapidly. Please refer to your attorney or other legal practitioners in your area to answer your specific questions related to family law and the COVID-19 crisis.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.