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Saving Summer: Don’t let Separation or Divorce Ruin Your Family’s Vacation Plans

Planning your children’s summer vacation should be a joyful experience. However, when you are separated or divorced, it can be a stressful time filled with uncertainty.

The following tips can serve as a guide for planning summer travel to minimize any negative impacts on your children.

Follow your custody agreement and/or custody order

If you have a custody agreement and/or a court order regarding custody of your children, it likely includes provisions specifying the children’s summer visitation and vacation schedules. Terms may include how and when parents notify each other of their summer vacation plans, protocols for sharing information regarding travel, and rules for travel outside of the region or country.

It is extremely important that you follow those provisions. Parents and attorneys include these provisions to avoid conflict about logistics during the summer. Failing to follow the terms of your agreement could result in scheduling difficulties, missed vacations, or court intervention.

Plan ahead: Put notification dates and reminders on your calendar.

What if you don’t have an agreement or order that addresses summer vacation?

Make sure you begin negotiating summer plans well ahead of time. If you do not have a written agreement or court order regarding summer travel, you should attempt to reach an agreement with your co-parent and memorialize it in writing. Advanced planning will allow you the opportunity to seek counsel, or court intervention, if necessary.

Plan ahead: Schedule a time with your co-parent and review summer plans.

What documents will you need for your trip?

  • If you have a written agreement regarding the planned travel, a custody agreement, and/or a court order, bring copies of those documents with you.
  • If you are traveling internationally, consider bringing a parental consent form, signed and notarized by your co-parent, consenting to the child’s travel. The written consent should include the child’s name, the traveling parent’s name, the travel destination(s), clear permission from the non-traveling parent, and each parent’s name and contact information. Check with the embassy of your foreign destination before traveling to confirm what documents you may need.
  • Children generally need a passport when traveling internationally, and it is advisable even when not strictly necessary. Typically, both parents and the child must be present to apply for the child’s passport. If only one parent is able to be present, however, the non-appearing parent must submit a notarized statement of consent. More information on the passport application process and the required forms is available on the U.S. Department of State’s website (travel.state.gov).
  • Travel requirements vary by country. The U.S. Department of State website offers a wealth of information regarding travel to most countries, including checklists to ensure that you and your child have the correct documentation for travel.

Plan ahead: Make a passport appointment now. Obtaining a passport may take more than a month, potentially longer if a parent disagrees with the issuance of one.

What if you fear your co-parent is attempting to remove your child from the United States without your permission?

Several tools exist to prevent a child’s abduction from the United States. First and foremost, as soon as the concern arises, you should contact an attorney to advise you regarding next steps.

Depending on the circumstances and timing, you also may be able to obtain a court order to prevent your child’s travel outside of the United States. If your child does not yet have a U.S. passport, you can enroll your child in the Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. This allows the Department of State to contact you to verify your consent to the issuance of a passport for your child prior to a passport being issued in your absence.

Finally, if you believe a parental kidnapping or abduction is underway, you should immediately contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues for emergency assistance at 1-888-407-4747; your local police department; and the airline and airport law enforcement at the departing airport, if known.

Have another issue related to summer travel with your children or child custody that we have not addressed? Give us a call. We’re here for you and your children.

Casey Florance and Chris Roberts are divorce attorneys who handle cases involving domestic relations and family law, including custody and visitation. For more information, contact Casey at 301-657-0162 or cwflorance@lerchearly.com and Chris at 301-657-0168 or cwroberts@lerchearly.com.

This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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