Five Tips for Traveling with Children During Your TimesharingBy DADvocacy™ | April 9, 2018
Summer is approaching and you’d like to take your children on a vacation. There are many factors to consider post-separation and planning out every summer for the next 18 years all at once can be overwhelming. We’ve broken it down for you so you can ensure you’ll be able to take your children on that Carnival Cruise this summer.
- Be Tuned in When Crafting Your Holiday Schedule. When your attorney, judge, or mediator asks you for your vacation schedule preference, take a moment to think about your family traditions and how to best incorporate them during your time with your children. Do you usually travel to Aunt Betty’s house out of state for Christmas? Then you’ll need a larger chunk of time during the winter break to do so. If you generally stay local, then giving both parents the opportunity to see the children on Christmas Day each year may work for your family. Maybe you traditionally take your children to visit relatives in Cuba or Europe for three weeks in the summer. If this is important to you, it should be included in your schedule.
- Read your Order Carefully. Many clients come into our office never having fully read their order or settlement agreement. Read your timesharing schedule very carefully—preferably before signing it—and make sure you understand it. Once your Order is signed, it is not an easy thing to change, especially if your co-parent doesn’t agree to change it. You may feel like you’ll always be able to work things out with your co-parent, so you don’t need to worry too much about what’s on paper. Unfortunately, this is not true for many people. If you don’t understand your schedule or you don’t like it, ask questions and be an advocate for your children to have enjoyable family vacations even after the breakdown of your family. Your order should spell out what holidays you have each year, when you need to provide notice of intent to travel (30 days or by April 1 of each year, for example), what information you need to provide when traveling, and how often your children should communicate with your co-parent while away from home, among other things.
- Communicate with your Ex BEFORE Planning Your Trip. Before you book that hotel or request days off from work, clearly communicate with your co-parent about dates for travel, location, etcetera, and get their acknowledgment. It’s usually a good idea to provide 30 to 45 days’ notice of your intent to travel—but the earlier, the better. When you were an intact family, maybe you were able to get up and go on a spontaneous weekend trip to the beach. Now that you’re separated, and especially if communication with your co-parent is strained, planning ahead is crucial to making the most of your time with the children. If there are dates laid out in your schedule, put them in your phone calendar and set reminders for yourself.
- Anticipate Passport Issues. If your children don’t have passports and you want to travel internationally, you’ll need the other parent’s consent to apply for a passport. If your children have passports, keep track of when they expire so you can be diligent to renew them. When you travel internationally with your children, best practice is to have a notarized consent form signed by the other parent. The State Department website is a valuable resource for information about traveling internationally with your children. When dealing with passport issues, give yourself plenty of time.
- Don’t Have an Order Yet? Don’t Travel. The litigation process is a difficult time for every family. You want to keep life as “normal” as possible for your children, but you may not be able to travel before litigation is finalized if you and your co-parent cannot agree. Traveling during the litigation process can cause delays in finalizing your case. Scheduling hearings requires coordinating not only you and your co-parent’s schedule, but your attorneys, witnesses, any professionals involved in your case and most importantly—your judge, who has a full docket of cases to hear. If you’re trying to travel without an order saying you can do so, don’t request an emergency hearing with your judge. Emergency hearings are reserved for truly emergent situations affecting life or limb—not for you to complain that your co-parent won’t let you pull the kids out of school to go to Disney World.
In summary, be cognizant, be informed, be diligent, and above all, be reasonable. If you need help crafting a thorough timesharing schedule, or if you already have a timesharing order and you need help understanding or changing it, call to speak with an experienced Dadvocacy Attorney today at (305) 371-7640.