It’s that time of year again — Thanksgiving is here and people are making plans for this holiday and the upcoming holidays. This can be a challenging time of year when planning family visits and holiday travel while coparenting.
Planning Ahead for Holiday Vacations
As part of the divorce process, parents sharing custody of a child usually have a possession and access schedule that describes how parenting time is divided. This is one element in a parenting plan. Judges will typically approve any possession schedule parents agree on, as long as it’s in the best interest of the child. When parents cannot agree on a schedule a judge may award the Texas standard possession order (SPO) or some other schedule that would be deemed in the best of the child.
Coparents can decide together to stray from their possession schedule to accommodate holiday activities and travel. If you or the other parent would like to do this, it is important to give the them advance notice and time to work out the details – review any and all court orders. You should also be ready to discuss the possibility of make-up visitation time.
Guidelines for Coparenting During Holidays
Many coparents lay out the expectations for planning travel with their child(ren) in the custody agreement as part of their parenting plan. Some of the rules laid out might answer questions like: What are acceptable areas to travel? Can the parents take the child(ren) out of state? How about out of the country? Does the parent planning the vacation have to get permission to take the child far away?
Coparents can also choose to require each parent to give the other a travel itinerary before going on vacation. This can help parents feel more comfortable while their child(ren) are traveling and know how to contact them.
It is helpful to establish rules in the custody agreement while working with a family law attorney so each parent knows what to do. Then, a parent can confidently head out for their vacation and relax with their child(ren)!
Planning Travel When You Don’t Have Established Rules
As mentioned above, court-ordered parenting plans often include a rule that each parent notifies the other of any travel plans that involve their child(ren). Even if your agreement doesn’t include that requirement, it’s a good idea to notify them anyway. If an emergency happens at home and your coparent needs to contact you or your child(ren) while on vacation, it is important that they know how to do so. Conversely, if an emergency happens while on vacation that requires you to contact your coparent, they should have an idea beforehand of where you are. This is especially important when you and your coparent share legal responsibility for the child(ren) and for decision-making regarding their medical care.
Here are some helpful questions to answer when preparing to notify your coparent about holiday travel plans with your child(ren):
Where are you going and when?
How are you getting there? If you’re planning to fly or take a train, provide information about the airline or train carrier, the flight or train number, and the travel schedule.
Where are you staying? Include an address or a phone number.
Who are you traveling with? Include a contact number for another adult who will know where you are and be in contact with you.
Traveling Out of State with Children
Even if your custody agreement does not specifically discuss giving notice when traveling to a different state or country with your child(ren), it is a good idea to discuss out-of-state or out-of-country travel with your coparent well in advance of any planned vacation. During this discussion, you should aim to agree on specific terms for the out-of-state or out-of-country holiday vacation. Then put these agreements in writing, so each coparent can keep a copy. You can work with your family law attorney on these agreements as well.
Choosing the Right Attorney for your Family Law Case
Kelly J. Capps is an experienced family law attorney. She works hard to find the best path for her clients to move their family forward. Our goal in every child custody dispute is to help our client resolve the situation in a way that fosters positive relationships between he or she and their children and preserves a working relationship with the other parent.