By: Mary Ellen Flynn, Attorney
All parents have to decide what camps, activities, and vacations their children will have during summer break.
But for parents that are no longer together and share custody, these decisions can be a source of conflict and tension. These parents must consider their respective budgets and how a vacation or summer camp will impact the custody schedule. Here’s what you need to know to make your summer decisions as stress-free as possible.
If you have joint custody, then that means that before taking a vacation, you have to have some discussions to address the impact that summer vacation will have on the regular visitation schedule.
You should first look for answers on how to address summer vacations in your separation or parenting plan agreement, or if you didn’t settle, then your Custody Order. Most agreements and Court Orders address summer vacations and travel.
If there is no agreement or court order that addresses summer vacations, you and the other parent will need to discuss and hopefully come to an agreement. One way to fairly decide on vacation plans is to enable each parent to have one or more weeks to go on vacation each summer with the children and take turns who goes first in choosing their vacation week. For example, Parent A gets to choose their week first in odd-numbered years, and in even-numbered years parent B gets to choose their week first.
Secondly, the parent not traveling with the child(ren) should know where their child(ren) will be and the itinerary, as well as the ability to have contact with their child(ren) while they’re traveling. Communication does not mean constant calling every day. But instead, calling once a day to say goodnight and check on the fun they are having is perfectly reasonable. Parents should also ensure that each parent has proper documents to ensure that the child(ren) can receive appropriate medical care in a medical emergency.
Third, both parents should have some ground rules established. These should include decisions about whether you can travel out of state? Out of the country? Who else will be on vacation and around the child(ren)? What are agreed-upon acceptable activities? Can the children parasail? Skydive? Charter fishing on a boat? The parents should discuss these decisions in advance of vacations. Even a trip to the beach can involve your child(ren) asking, if not begging, to do activities they see others doing, from snorkeling to parasailing. Therefore, you and the other parent should discuss all types of activities and not assume what the other parent would approve.
Lastly, it is vital that you and the other parent either have a court order or agreement addressing vacations before taking your child(ren) on vacation. Failure to do so can have a negative impact on you and can be the cause of a custody modification request.
Remember, you do not have the option to decide on the fly to take your child(ren) somewhere. You must follow the appropriate steps before leaving. Taking a summer vacation is a great time to create memories with your children. Just be sure to comply with all custody agreements and court orders before traveling so that the vacations themselves don’t create conflict.
Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The Firm practices family law, estate planning, and probate throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The Firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The Firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and their attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685.