By: Nancy Ghertner, Atlanta Family Lawyer
It’s Spring Break time, and soon enough after that it’s summer vacation time. If you have the kids for Spring Break and plan to travel either out of town or out of the country with them, experience has shown that it’s best for all – both parents and children – to let the other parent know where you and the children are going, where you and the children will stay, and how best to reach the children. Even if your divorce decree does not require you to provide this information to the other parent, following this practice may be good for the long term.
The first thing I would advise (assuming it really is your year to be with the children over Spring Break) is to give the other parent enough notice that you are going on vacation, not as a last-minute throwaway but as a focused and respectful sharing of information about your common interest, your children. Share as many details as are available.
I have heard from parents who were surprised when their ex-spouse casually said, “Hey, remember we talked about this. I’m taking the kids to _________ (anywhere, even out of the country) for Spring Break.” Try your best to provide at least 30 days advance notice of your planned departure – the more lead time the better.
While usually not a legal issue (but if it were the whole episode could turn into a nightmarish international child abduction case), sending the other parent an email that contains flights, hotels, cities visiting, and best way to contact the children just may lead to an increased likelihood that when it’s the non-traveling parent’s turn to take the kids on vacation, they will extend to you this same courtesy.
It might be necessary also to get the non-traveling parent to write and sign a letter that says he/she is aware that the kids are traveling alone with you and gives you full permission to do so. Again, taking this step may not be legally binding per your final agreement, but when travel to another country is involved, such a written letter may come in handy. Also, sometimes cruise lines and/or airlines require such proof from the non-traveling parent – check on that ahead of time.
I wouldn’t recommend it, but if your new significant other is traveling with you, as a courtesy, I have a few suggestions to be carried out well ahead of time. Let the other parent know that the new significant other will be accompanying you with the children. If the other parent has never met this person try to have him/her meet your ex before the trip. This can get tricky and emotions might flare, especially if this is a brand-new relationship in your life, but the children’s other parent is entitled to that courtesy.
All this caution comes down to reassuring the non-traveling parent that his/her children are safe and with responsible adults during their trip.
Believe me, your children will pay attention to how well you treat and respect each other, and isn’t that what you want to teach them about healthy relationships? And on the practical side you may need your ex to take in the mail for you and keep an eye on your place while you and his/her children are away. It’s pretty much back to a variation of The Golden Rule – treat your former spouse as you would want them to treat you so that everyone can relax and enjoy their vacation time.