Child Custody Vacation Time Questions

Child custody & vacation time will generally be discussed in the parenting plan section of your divorce, but it doesn’t always outline everything specifically. This can lead to confusion and tension between you and your ex. 

If you are still working through the details of your divorce and parenting plan, you need to consider how vacations will be a handled in the future. 

Young girl enjoying the pool during her child custody vacation time.

You’ll want to make sure to define whether vacation time is fixed or flexible, how many weeks of vacation each parent will get, how the other parent will be notified about vacation times, and whether vacation time takes precedence over regular visitation. 

If your divorce has been finalized, you may now be realizing that your parenting plan didn’t specifically address all the issues that might come up. Other moms have faced this situation and have asked our legal advisor for her input. Keep reading to find out what she says...

What if the divorce papers didn't specify vacation times?

Angie's Question: My sister has sole physical and legal custody. There is nothing in the divorce paper about vacation times. Her ex says he has first choice and is telling her she has to work around his vacation time. Also, when he takes the kids on vacation, he won't tell her where they are going and when she talks to the kids he will not let them tell her where they are. Is there anything she can do about this situation?

Brette's Answer: She could request that the order be modified to specify when each vacation will be and that each parent must notify the other of contact information and location for the trip in advance. It can also specify contact with the children while they are away.

Are vacation times meant to occur while school is out for the summer?

Brittany's Question: In the matter of parenting time, my order states each parent shall have 2 weeks of uninterrupted vacation during summer.  We must notify each other 30 days in advance.  Does this imply that we should take our vacations while school is on school recess?  This is how we have been doing it for the last 7 years.  This year, my ex is asking for time when school is in session. 

Brette's Answer: Usually it means over summer break from school but your lawyer can tell you how your specific order is interpreted by courts in your state. 

He didn't request vacation time as directed in the visitation order.

Debra's Question: We have two daughters 17 & 11 and I have been compliant with visitation. However, he demanded to take them this month for vacation. The 17 year old is currently taking college classes during the summer and has exams next week. Our 11 year old says she will not go because she does not trust him; he lies, cusses, and drinks alcohol. He did not request the vacation as directed in the visitation policy (30 days prior to the commencement of the last day of school). Do they have to go with him on vacation?

Brette's Answer: No. If he didn't follow the process specified in the order, you're not obligated to send them. And the 17 year old would be able to say no regardless. Good luck.

Can he cut my vacation time with the kids short?

Question: I have my children for the agreed 2 week summer vacation. Can ex cut the vacation short and demand they be brought home?

Brette's Answer: No. The court order controls your time.

How is the regular visitation affected by vacation time?

Terese's Question: Would you please clarify something for me in the Custody Agreement? This past weekend was the Dad weekend. This week will be his vacation week from Wednesday to the following Wednesday. Normally it would have been Moms weekend next but they will be on vacation. Isn't it correct that following with the regular parenting schedule that it will then be Moms weekend when they return as it normally would have so he does not have three consecutive weekends in a row?

Brette's Answer: Generally, no. Vacation overrides the regular agreement. Once vacation is over you go back to the schedule. But you can certainly do it the other way if you both agree.

Can we vacation out of state if it doesn't interfere with visitation?

Mimi's Question: I have sole physical custody of our son and we have joint legal custody. Father has a visitation schedule. Am I allowed to take my child out of state for a vacation, if it does not interfere with visitation?

Brette's Answer: If your court order does not say you can't, then it shouldn't be a problem. It's always nice to notify the other parent as to where you're going. (Get more Post Divorce Vacation Pointers)

Do I need my ex's consent to take the kids to Mexico on vacation?

Nicole's Question: If I am the legal custodian and residential parent, do I need permission from my kids' father to take them to Mexico on vacation? They already have passports.

Brette's Answer: Not unless your order specifies it. In general it's good practice to let the other parent know in advance and give contact info for where you'll be.

Can he use his custody vacation time by taking all the weekends in December?

Question: I have a full physical custody and his father has visitation rights. We both have 3 weeks’ vacation time with our child per year. The father is planning on taking our son on “vacation” by taking all the weekends in December except the Christmas Eve that I have per court order this year. That makes my time with my son go down to 2 days a week for the whole month of December. Is there any way I can fight this?

Brette's Answer: You can file for modification of the order to clarify this. Usually vacation is taken over the summer or school breaks in consecutive weeks when the child is off from school. That is normally the intended meaning of the words, so I think the court would agree with you.

Is it reasonable if he wants visitation every school break plus summer vacation?

Elizabeth's Question: I am primary custodian of my son. My ex-husband moved out of state 2 years ago to be near his family, but now wants our son every summer in its entirety, every fall break and every spring break, alternating Thanksgiving and Christmas. This leaves me very little time outside of school/work to spend with my son.  I am fine splitting breaks. Will the courts give him ALL breaks, leaving me only weekends to travel and see family? What is a typical court ordered out of state plan?

Brette's Answer: Giving all holidays and the entire summer to one parent is generally not done. Considering that your ex chose to move and that this was not a situation you created, it is unreasonable to expect to be given all of the child's school vacations. I suggest you talk with an attorney who is familiar with what the courts in your area typically order in this type of situation. It would be more reasonable to alternate the winter and spring breaks and split the summer in half, or give your ex just one month in the summer. 

Is he in violation if he takes a vacation without the kids?

Maria's Question: My custody agreement includes a clause for 2 weeks of vacation for each parent with our children. My ex took a two week vacation without the kids, trying to pass it off as an exchange of weekends. He now wants to take the kids on a week's vacation and claims that I am violating his rights. I want to deter him from taking the kids, since I think he will be violating the agreement. Do I have a legal recourse to prevent him taking the kids or do I have to wait until he actually violates the agreement to take him to court?

Brette's Answer: If I am reading your email correctly, he went away for two weeks alone. He now wants to take a week with the children. Your agreement gives him two weeks of vacation. The agreement speaks to vacation time WITH the children and has nothing to do with what he does on his own time. If he chooses to go away for two weeks and does not exercise his visitation, that is his choice and his loss. There's nothing you can do about it. I can understand that it screws up your schedule and your children's schedule, but there's nothing you can do about it.

Is child support owed during summer vacation?

Janet's Question: What happens if the kids live with him and I will have them for a month this summer? Can I keep child support for that month since they will be with me and I will have to pay child care, food, etc.?

Brette's Answer: Child support is due whether the kids are with you or not.

Copyright | Published February 7, 2019 / Updated March 26, 2021

About Brette Sember - Legal Expert