Traveling With Kids After Divorce
Taking short trips or long vacations with your family is always a fun, memorable experience. Everyone looks forward to getting out of the house for a few days, whether it’s some place an hour away or on the other side of the world. With all of the anticipation and excitement leading up to a trip, it is important that you remember to iron out all of the details first.
For divorced parents, simply packing up and going on your way is not likely how you’ll be able go about traveling with your kids. In a divorced family situation, there are often times guidelines and stipulations within a custody order that lay out the details by which parents must follow in order to take their kids on a trip.
Knowing the details regarding traveling with your kids after divorce is important so that you'll be able to focus more of your energy on giving your kids a vacation that they'll always remember.
Traveling with kids after divorce is certainly not an uncommon occurrence. It happens all the time, although it often calls for some additional pre-planning as the trip is being organized. Every situation is unique, but one good place for every divorced or separated parent to start when planning to travel with their kids is to review their parenting plan.
Review your parenting agreement for information regarding holidays and traveling with your kids. There may be details included in the agreement about when each parent is allotted time to travel or take vacations with your children. If you wish to travel with your kids over a more popular vacation times such as spring break or the December holiday season, be aware of any prior arrangement you and your co-parent made on how those times are to be divided over the years. It's common for co-parents to be on a schedule that calls for them to rotate custody over those dates each year.
If your have a trip planned for 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. You may consider discussing a parenting time swap so that you can accommodate your trip while working to ensure that your co-parent is able to spend their time with your children before or after your trip.
If you and your co-parent cannot work out an adequate parenting time swap, try not to sweat it. It's always a disappointment when plans don't work out, yet it's crucial to consider how conflict could factor into these plans. Allowing disagreements over this trip turn into a full blown conflict only complicates your co-parenting and could even ruin the trip for you and your kids. Instead, consider reformulating your travel plans for dates on which you do have parenting time already scheduled.
In contrast, if your travel plans were for an event that you feel is absolutely vital for your kids to attend like a major family event, talk to your attorney or other family law practitioners to see what your options may be moving forward. They may be able to offer guidance to you on how to handle this situation.
Reaching an agreement with your co-parent on travel dates is a key first step in planning trips with your kids after divorce. Yet just as important as deciding on your travel schedule is ensuring that you have the right documentation to help your trip run as smooth as possible.
Get Your Documentation in Order
Having the right documentation for your children in order before your trip is essential. No matter where you're traveling, thoroughly document your travel agreements and plans for your trip. This will include your travel schedule, names of those traveling with you, details on your methods of transport, information about where you'll be staying, and other key details about where your kids will be throughout your trip. Make sure that you and your co-parent have access to review this information before, during, and after your trip. Consistently documenting your travel schedule and any correspondence with your co-parent related to these plans can help ensure that your trip is a successful one and not leave you running into questions or issues later on.
Domestic vs International Travel
Related to travel documentation, it's vital to ensure that you, your children, and anyone else in your travel party have the right documentation for your trip. For flights within the United States, travelers over the age of 18 must show a valid form of identification at the airport checkpoint, while children under 18 are not required to show identification when traveling with a companion.
However, international travel will require identification by way of a passport for every traveler. 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.
Consider Travel Security
Nowadays, traveling with kids is more common than ever, even for divorced families. Also common today are children with dual citizenship due to their parents' nationalities. Whether co-parents are still living in the same town or in different countries, as long as their well-being and safety are upheld by each parent, children deserve to spend time with both of their parents regardless of their individual locations.
However, this can often be easier said than done. The further away parents live from one another, the more complicated it can be to arrange for their children to travel to see each of them. Beyond the costs and travel logistics involved when sending a child abroad, there may also be a risk factor felt by one or both parents. One particular concern that a divorced parent may have when sending their child abroad to their co-parent's home country is that the co-parent will not comply with the custody agreement during the trip, whether it is by limiting the child's contact with the other parent or—in extreme cases—not allowing the child to return to their home after the trip.
Ne Exeat Bonds
As a way to help safeguard against these things from happening, a parent may ask to secure a Ne Exeat Bond prior to the trip. A Ne Exeat Bond is a form of surety bond that is used to help assure that the traveling parent will comply with the custody agreement while abroad with their child. The bond is typically set at what the legal fees would be for the parent remaining in the United States if they were forced to take action abroad in regards to the co-parent not complying with the divorce agreement during the trip.
While this bond is growing in popularity with divorced parents across the country, a judge might not always require it, especially if the traveling parent has a good history of complying with the divorce agreement. Once again, your attorney will have more details regarding Ne Exeat Bonds and if it would be an appropriate option for you to look into prior to your child's trip abroad.
Plan for Fun
With all of these details that you have to work out, you may have already forgotten that you're about to set off on an adventure with your kids, one that they are probably starting to get really excited about. For many, family trips and vacations only come every once in a while–and maybe even less often for divorced families.
Wherever your travels take your family, do what you can to make it extra enjoyable for your kids. Have some games and snacks packed in your bag to help quell boredom or hunger during long drives or flights. An iPod and headphones or a tablet equipped with a few movies will also help get everyone through the journey.
Once you've reached your destination, it'll help to have some kind of a schedule to keep your kids on. In particular, try to keep your kids on a bedtime or nap schedule that they are used to. It will go for meals and homework. Finally, try and help your kids learn something new while on vacation by visiting museums, local monuments, or even showing them things important to their own family's history.
All in all, traveling with kids after divorce might sometimes feel complex, but in the end, having a fun trip with your kids that they'll always remember makes it worth the trouble.