Vacations are such an important part of family life and parenting. Many families have multi-generational traditions tied into vacations, vacation homes, and seasonal homes. Fathers who have created these traditions with their own children while they were married often want to continue bringing their kids on vacation even after the divorce. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be difficult in the context of a court-ordered custody arrangement.
It’s not possible to just pick up your child and go on vacation at a moment’s notice when you have a custody order. The non-custodial parent will have to plan for long vacations ahead of time to ensure that the vacation does not interfere with the custody sharing plan.
It is possible to have the court’s blessing when taking your child on vacation, even when you are not the custodial parent. Here are a few basics to know to safeguard yourself.
Can a non-custodial parent take a child out of state without permission?
If no custody order exists, a short trip without court permission is allowed under normal circumstances. But it’s important to not take the child out of the state against the opposing parent’s wishes.
If a non-custodial parent takes the child out of state without the custodial parent’s permission or the court’s permission, he or she may lose rights of the child if a custody determination does take place. Keep this in mind before going on any trip out of the state when a custody order is not in place. To show that you have received permission for an out-of-state vacation with your kids, we highly recommend obtaining a child custody vacation letter signed by your ex in the presence of a notary public.
Guidelines of Typical Custodial Agreements
If you do have a custody arrangement with your ex, it will usually dictate child custody vacation time. The custodial agreement between you and your ex may vary, so ensure you’re within your agreement’s rights before deciding to take any further action. Normal agreements are as follows:
- Custodial Parent: The custodial parent will have the child live with them full-time during the school year with the exceptions of weekends where the non-custodial parent is granted visitation.
- Non-custodial Parent: Non-custodial parents are often given full-time summer visitation rights. The custodial parent may see the child at this time and the child may switch among both homes. But for the most part, the non-custodial parent will have the child for the majority of the summer vacation.
Custodial agreements work to not interrupt a child’s day-to-day routine during the school year; this is why weekend visitation is ideal.
Can a non-custodial parent take a child out of state for vacation?
As a non-custodial parent, you have a right to bring your child on a trip as long as it doesn’t interfere with the custodial agreement.
Barring any exceptions, for example, you can take your child to Disneyland for a week or longer during the summer months unless the custodial parent has visitation rights. For example, you may have custody of the child on Monday through Friday and the custodial parent will have weekend visitation rights. You cannot legally keep the custodial parent from seeing the child at this time.
Long Vacations for the Non-Custodial Parent
A long vacation is best taken during the summer months when the vacation will not interfere with the school year. A major concern of the courts and custodial parents is that vacations during the school year may interfere with the child’s schooling. If you have been granted summer custody of your child, joint custody out of state travel is usually permitted during your parenting time.
Mutual Agreements- Can my ex take my child out of state on vacation if I approve?
If you and your ex are still on a good standing, keep the lines of communication open and discuss your vacation plans. In most circumstances, given appropriate time, the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent will be able to come to an agreement on long vacation details.
Mutual vacation agreements should be discussed as early after the divorce as possible. If possible, discuss the matter with the courts so that vacation details can be added into the custodial agreement. It’s important to not sway from the agreement as the custodial parent will be able to take legal action if he or she wishes.
For example, if you have a tradition of visiting Florida for two weeks during winter vacation, discuss this with the courts. It’s very likely you can have that vacation written into your custody order so you can take your child on this vacation each year.
Divorce agreements should always include:
- Vacation time allocated to each parent, and
- How much notice should be given to the opposing parent before a vacation is taken
Unfortunately, this may not be the case with your custody order – or you may not have a formal order at all. If all else fails, you may get the courts involved to have your long vacation approved. Courts will try not to deviate from the original custodial agreement, but you may have a compelling reason for a judge to grant your request for vacation time.
The last thing anyone wants is to have to go to court instead of bringing a child to Disneyland for two weeks. If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement on a long vacation, you’ll want court approval prior to booking your tickets as a legal safeguard.
Whether you’re working on creating your initial custody agreement, or trying to get it modified to take your child out of state for vacation, work with a child custody lawyer to create a compelling argument.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm focusing on family law. Attorney Brad Micklin was named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has experience working with child custody. You can read more on this topic by visiting our Child Custody & Support blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.