Planning a vacation is the first part of the fun of going on vacation. However, when you're co-parenting children with an ex, some of the fun can evaporate. You may feel like you must negotiate child custody all over again just so you can take a vacation. Manage this tricky situation by planning ahead and maintaining open lines of communication with your ex.
Talk About Vacation Time Beforehand
When you sit down to make a parenting plan, the separation is usually in the early stages. In the time between the separation and your children reach their majority, you'll likely undergo large changes in circumstances. These changes can include changing jobs or settling with a new partner. Said changes can also affect when you take your vacation.
You'll never be able to account for every eventuality when you craft your parenting plan. Instead, talk with your co-parent about how to approach changed circumstances. For example, many co-parents agree that vacation orders will take precedence over scheduled parenting time, as long as the vacation doesn't interfere with school schedules.
While you're planning the vacation portion of your parenting plan, remember that both co-parents deserve equal vacation time with the children. That said, you may want to include stipulations for moving away. For example, if you have less time with your children during the school year because you moved, you might advocate for more vacation time.
Include School Vacations in the Parenting Plan
A successful parenting plan should account for as many parenting scenarios as possible. Luckily, schooling is predictable, so you can incorporate the schedule into your plan.
The first step is to research what the typical school vacations look like in your area. Time off is not standardized. Some school districts shorten summers and incorporate more vacation days into the school year, while others maintain a more traditional schedule.
The number-one consideration when co-parenting is to consider the best interests of the child in every decision. So, if your ex comes up with a last-minute spring break trip, take a step back and think about how the trip will affect your children. You can always negotiate make-up parenting time that will be equally fun, such as over another school break.
Think About Travel Sans Kids
You may want to take the opposite approach with your co-parent. For example, talk about what the parenting schedule will look like if one of you goes on vacation without the children. Many co-parents agree to switch weeks of parenting time to accommodate the other's vacation.
Conversely, maybe you or your co-parent will simply take on more parenting time while the other is on vacation with no exchange. In that case, you may want to look into the economics of the matter, especially if increased parenting time increases childcare costs. The vacationing parent could take on some of these increased costs.
Consider Out-of-State and International Travel
North Carolina doesn't have any specific laws regarding traveling out-of-state or even out of the country with your children. Instead, the laws expect such situations to be spelled out in the parenting plan.
Usually, when you're planning a vacation outside the state, you need to notify your co-parent ahead of time. North Carolina law doesn't specify how much notice you must give, but one month is often suggested. You and your co-parent's preferences should be stipulated in the parenting plan.
Federal law requires all citizens, including infants on up, to have a valid passport when traveling outside the country. If you think any international travel is in your future, get your children's passports ahead of time.
When developing a co-parenting plan, account for the usual vacations and build in some flexibility for changing circumstances. Consult with the family law experts at Allan Brandon Tise, PLLC, Attorney at Law for more advice or help with tricky vacation custody situations.