Traveling as a divorced parent is not as simple as packing and leaving! Family Law Attorney Debora Diaz offers the travel advice you need before your next trip.
This morning my children had a snow delay for school, and it looks as though we may have the same fate for tomorrow. All this cold and dreary weather makes me start dreaming about springtime and fun travel that my kids and I might take over Spring Break or during the summer! As with anything related to divorce, however, even travel is a bit more complicated, and there are a few more steps to take to avoid conflict and remain in compliance with my parenting agreement.
Last summer, I took my kids on a short trip within our state. This was no big deal because our journey was all on my time; and, my court orders specify that I don’t even need to notify their dad of a trip if we don’t leave the state. I’ll admit that I’m a bit intimidated about trying anything any more complicated than what I already have, which is why I consulted with Florida family law attorney, Debora Diaz to help me plan my next trip!
Diaz, who has practiced law for 22 years had plenty of important advice to share about traveling with children post-divorce:
“Traveling with children post-divorce is certainly not an uncommon occurrence. It happens all the time, although it does call for some extra planning. Review your custody order for details regarding holidays and school break notification requirements. There may be details in the order about when a parent is allotted time to travel or take vacations with the children.”
Diaz continued “If you want to take your children on a trip over spring break or the end of the year holiday season, be aware of any prior arrangement you and your co-parent agreed upon about how those times are to be divided over the years. It is common for co-parents to be on a time-sharing schedule that calls for them to rotate custody over those dates each year. For example, one parent may have even years and one parent may have odd years for Spring Break. If you want to travel with your children during a time in which you are not scheduled to have parenting time, you should discuss this with your co-parent prior to making any travel arrangements.”
Attorney Diaz advises “for divorced parents, simply packing up and going on a trip is not usually an option. In a divorced family situation, most of the time in the Final Judgment of Divorce and time-sharing plan, there are guidelines that specify what the parents must follow in order to take their children on a trip. After a divorce, it is important to know the details regarding traveling with your children before you commit to reservations and pay deposits.”
Diaz’ advice makes good sense, because it’s largely about communicating our intentions, making sure that we’re not inviting conflict by planning things over our co-parent’s time, and generally clearing the logistics of our travel plans by what our court orders state. We can save ourselves a lot of time, money, and hassle by carefully thinking before we act!
Once the date is set and reservations are made, Diaz recommends to “thoroughly record your travel plans as well as any travel agreement made with your co-parent. Give your co-parent written documentation of travel plans and the itinerary. Keep any related correspondence, such as emails or text messages or other records in a place where you can access them easily in the future, if necessary. This will help you avoid future situations in which your co-parent is saying one thing happened while you state otherwise. Consistently documenting your schedule details and correspondence with your co-parent can be a useful habit to practice after divorce.”
I know that I would want to know where my children are if they travel long distance with my ex and how I could find them in an emergency; so, it’s only fair to give what I expect to receive in return! I wouldn’t ever want my ex to be able to say I didn’t share important information with him that could somehow jeopardize my children’s wellbeing!
My stepdaughter has been begging for my husband and me to take all the kids on a big trip, like a cruise, instead of giving them typical Christmas presents next year. It sounds like fun; but, it also sounds like something I need more advice on since such a voyage could extend into international territory.
Diaz has the following legal insight about travel out-of-country: “According to the U.S. Department of State, all children are required to have a valid passport in order to travel overseas, regardless of their age. They also lay out the rules for how a divorced parent may submit a passport application if their child does not already have one. It will be important to review these rules if your child needs a valid passport, as obtaining one for your child will require consent from both you and your co-parent if you share legal custody.”
Diaz understands that many parents fear the outcome of their child traveling overseas with their other parent. What if the child isn’t safe or the parent fails to return the child from the trip? For these extreme cases, Diaz shared the following “If you have concerns about your ex-spouse traveling internationally with your child, a family law attorney can notify the court on your behalf. Because a U.S. family law court does not have jurisdiction in foreign countries, the court’s only option to protect your parental rights is to issue a Ne Exeat security bond.
A Ne Exeat security bond is a court order that seeks to guarantee that the other parent will uphold the terms of the divorce settlement and child custody agreement. In the event that the other parent does not return and does not uphold the terms of his or her agreement, the Ne Exeat Bond will require the other parent to pay the bond. This covers the cost of international legal action that you would incur in trying to get your children back.”
In any situation where a parent wants to protect themselves before taking a trip or has significant fears about a trip their ex plans to take with the children, Diaz urges them to speak to a family law attorney for clarification or to seek the proper legal support.
“An attorney can help you protect yourself and your child as best as possible by requesting to have your child custody order modified, if necessary. The court may then modify your order to have provisions placed that clearly limit the other parent’s ability to travel with your child. By doing so, the other parent is legally bound to abide by the provisions specified in the custody order. If the court order is violated, you can notify your local police agency to file criminal charges against the other parent” Attorney Diaz concluded.
I feel more prepared now to consider traveling with my kids on our next vacation! It’s a relief to know that there is an action I could take to protect my kids if I have fears about them traveling with my ex, and it’s important to know what responsibilities I have to keep myself from being the cause of problems when I take them out-of-town. My next questions will be where to go, and how soon can we leave?