You're past the stressful stages of divorce, vacation plans are in the works, and you're ready to enjoy some down-time with the kids. The only glitch is how you'll work everything out with your ex. The following tips can help make your vacation planning a lot easier.
It's here - summer. Kids dream of it all year. Often the highlight of the summer for kids and parents is a family vacation. When you're divorced or separated, family vacations can be more complicated. You've got a parenting plan to work around and an ex to deal with. Follow these tips to make sure summer vacations live up to their potential.
In many situations, each parent is entitled to a chunk of uninterrupted vacation time with the child. It's essential that you coordinate with each other and not make any firm reservations until you've cleared the dates with the other parent. The last thing you want to have happen is for both of you to pre-pay for a trip for the same dates.
If your ex is being evasive and won't agree, put your request in writing (keep a copy and send it certified mail) so there can be no confusion. Give him or her several days to respond and if you get no answer, plan your trip.
In the world of visitation, a summer vacation takes precedence over regularly scheduled vacation, as pointed out in these vacation time FAQs. However, when planning your trip try, to take special events into account. For example, planning your vacation over Father's Day weekend or your ex's birthday will not only likely violate your court order, but be hurtful to your child and ex. Likewise, arranging a trip that falls during your child's baseball playoffs is also not the best choice.
There are a lot of factors to take into account, so think through all the possibilities. Sometimes you're very limited as to when you can go and compromises will have to be made.
When your child travels with you or your ex, it's important that there be ongoing contact with the parent not on the trip. For young children, make arrangements for phone calls or Skype (if internet access is available). Older children often take the reins when it comes to staying in touch with the other parent, but may forget in the midst of the excitement, so a few reminders are useful. It's also just nice to help your young child send a postcard to the other parent or even bring home a small souvenir for him or her.
Whether your court order requires it or not, it's a good idea to share travel plans with each other. This helps the parent who is at home to feel more connected to the child who is gone, and is also simply a good idea for safety reasons. If you aren't comfortable giving your ex names and phone numbers of hotels, at least share general locations.
If your court order requires permission from the other parent to travel with the child or go out of state, cover your bases and get it in writing. The last thing you want is to have your vacation interrupted by an ex who has suddenly changed his or her mind.
Use your family vacation time for activities your child will enjoy. You only get a limited amount of travel time, so make the most of it. This is not the trip when you want to spend your days alone in the spa or head out for adult fun at night.
Make sure you have your child's passport (if she has one and you will be leaving the country), her health insurance card, necessary medications, and a copy of your custody order in case there is any question. If your ex gave written permission for the trip, bring that along.
Do your best to allow your ex a good family vacation as well. A lot of custodial parents feel anxiety at the thought of their child going away with the ex for a week or more. Remind yourself that the time together will be good for them and will allow them to have shared experiences. Its sink or swim time and almost all non-custodial parents are going to swim.
Get contact information, but try not to call more than once a day (or less). It's ok to ask a few pointed questions (if there's a pool, does your ex have water wings packed; if it's a sunny location, does he understand how often to apply sunscreen; does he know not to leave your child alone in a hotel room, etc.). It's also ok to pack a little care package for your child (sunscreen, allergy meds in case, a little toy, a book, and so on).
When your child is away with your ex, use this as "me" time to do all sorts of things you've never had time for. Go to the spa, get some gardening done, hang out with friends, clean your closet, or go on a couples getaway with your new flame.
Even though post divorce vacation planning may require you to coordinate certain things with your ex, it will be worth in the long run as far as your children are concerned. For more ideas and suggestions on handling summer visitation and tips on cooperative co-parenting, check out the following articles: