Summer Vacation for Divorced Parents: Legal Steps to Take Before You Travel

With summer vacation time just around the corner, you may be preoccupied with suntans and ocean views—but have you thought about your legal responsibilities? While it’s certainly not the most fun aspect of your vacation planning, it’s one of the most important, especially if you’re a divorced parent travelling alone with your kids. Make sure you tick these legal boxes before you set forth.

Double-Check Your Packing List

Whether or not you’re the vacationing parent, you should work together with your former spouse to make sure your children have everything they need to travel. If you haven’t gotten around to consolidating your child’s medical and legal documents with your former spouse, now’s the time. Make sure the travelling spouse has a valid passport for each child, any prescription medication they may need, and copies of their health insurance and immunization documents. Once you’ve taken care of this high-importance packing list, you can move on to the toothbrushes and teddy bears.

Get a Letter of Consent

When you travel internationally with your child, some airlines or security officers may ask you to provide a letter of consent. As a precaution against child abduction, the letter essentially states that one parent has given the other parent permission to travel alone with their child. You can find templates on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Understand the Hague Convention

When the time comes for vacation planning, there may be concerns about the destination country—particularly when it comes to countries that don’t recognize the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. While it’s painful to think about, the unfortunate truth is that some divorced parents may violate court orders by taking their children to a foreign country. The Convention’s legal framework allows children to be returned home, but only in countries that recognize it.  It’s important to have legal counsel on board who is experienced with the nuances of international child custody issues, so that you can understand the applicability of the Hague Convention in the destination country, evaluate the potential risks, and know your legal options in the event your child’s other parent violates your court orders, even if it seems unlikely.

Communicate and Coordinate

Your custody agreement or divorce order typically dictates your responsibilities to communicate with your co-parent If your vacation is out of state.  Often you must notify the other parent in advance, and in many cases, you’ll need to provide details about your arrival and departure dates, flight information, your itinerary, and a phone number and address where the other parent can reach your children.  If possible or if required by their orders, many parents coordinate their respective vacations with the children to make sure they works for everyone.

Some of our clients find that involving us prior to a trip is a proactive step to making sure that they are acting in line with the court’s orders in their case.  Doing so allows you either to rest easy that legal issues won’t ruin your fun in the sun with your kids, or to propose a modification to the orders that is more inline with your goals for you and your children.  Freed Marcroft’s legal team has extensive experience helping parents with divorce and custody-related matters, including court order violations and international divorce law.

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