It happens every summer, and when there is a long school break, I inevitably receive a call from a non-custodial father who wants to take his children on an extended vacation, usually out of the state and sometimes out of the country. What better way to strengthen and reinforce your bond with the kids than spending a few weeks with them at Disney World, seeing the wonders of Yellowstone or the Canadian Rockies, or introducing them to the magnificent museums, palaces and cathedrals of Europe?
“Do I need my ex’s permission to take my son and daughter on an extended holiday out of state?” is how the question is asked most-often.
The answer depends on a number of factors. The two most-important considerations are what is provided for in the custody and visitation agreement, and does their mother object to you taking them out of state.
Out of State Trips Without Permission
As a general rule, in the absence of a custody order – say, in the early stages of negotiating the divorce – taking the kids on a short trip out of state to visit their grandparents on Long Island or in Philadelphia is not a problem.
However, if the mother objects, don’t just fume “The hell with her!” and go anyway.
It can land you in serious trouble with the police who are likely to issue an Amber Alert. You’ll be on all of the radio and TV stations as well as having every officer in the Tri-State area plus Pennsylvania on the lookout for you.
Also, most-likely it will jeopardize your future case as we proceed with negotiating and finalizing all of the custody and visitation details. If your divorce ends up in court, judges don’t take kindly to hearing that the non-custodial parent did something against the expressed wishes of the children’s mother.
There are some things we can do to help you if your ex is being uncooperative or unreasonable. For instance, when a New Jersey father wants to take his children out of state but the mother is refusing to give her permission we can ask a judge to issue an order allowing the trip.
Because each situation and case is as unique as the children involved, don’t set off on a trip without either having your ability to do so written into the custody agreement, receiving approval from the mother, or obtaining a court order.
Long Vacations for New Jersey’s Non-Custodial Fathers
Obviously, it is best to try to schedule a trip when school is not in session and to have such a time written into the custody agreement with their mother if she is the custodial parent.
But even during the summer, a trip with the kids cannot interfere with your ex-spouse’s ability to see their children. For example, it is not uncommon to include a summer month – say, August – with the father. But that provision often includes specified times the children will be with their mother. Every weekend or every other weekend is not uncommon.
So, if you’re heading up to the mountains, down to the Maryland shore or over to Disneyland in California, you will need to plan the getaway around the mother’s visitation time. You must either have them at their mother’s house on Friday night or get her permission to reschedule her allotted days that would arise when you’re away with the youngsters. Legally, you cannot prevent your ex from seeing your children if it’s her time to be with them.
Usually, but not always, this situation arises in the summer and we can help you negotiate a reasonable schedule with your ex as we develop the visitation and custody agreement. We can also include a provision that the mother will not unreasonably withhold her permission provided you give her enough advance notice and provide suggested alternative times when she can be with the kids.
Finding Solutions to Sticking Points
The last thing anyone wants is to be in court when they’d rather be at an amusement park with their children or spending time with them at a mountain retreat or seaside condo. The best way to avoid this is to anticipate it when we negotiate the divorce.
If you or a father you know is either considering a divorce or is having trouble arranging a summer holiday away with the children, feel free to call me or any of our family law attorneys for fathers in New Jersey. Call me at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.