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Spring Break and Child Custody: 2 Legal Questions and Answers

School vacations can be tricky times for separated parents sharing custody, and spring break can raise some especially challenging custody issues. So while your child is looking forward to some time off from school, you might be looking for answers to some important questions.

Here are two questions, and answers, that might impact your custody arrangement during spring break:

1. Can My Ex Take Our Kid(s) on a Spring Break Trip Without Telling Me Where They're Going?

This is a tough one. Generally, your ex may take the children wherever he or she wants, absent a specific provision in your custody and visitation agreement that requires notice. However, there may be some limits on those vacation plans and ways to make your ex tell you where they are going.

Courts require that all custody decisions be made in the child's best interest. Therefore, your ex can't place your kids in any danger. And you may be able to convince the court that knowing where your kids are (in case of an emergency, for example) is in their best interest.

If your ex ignores reasonable requests to share his or her vacation plans with your children, you may be able to demonstrate to the court that your ex is interfering with your visitation rights. This can lead to an "order to show cause" asking your ex to explain why he or she can't or won't explain the vacation plans to you.

2. Am I Liable If My Kid Gets in Trouble While on an Out-of-Town Spring Break Trip?

Let's say you've got custody for spring break and your child wants to join some friends for an out-of-town trip. Obviously you're worried about his or her well-being, but should you be worried about your liability for his or her actions?

As it turns out, there is a concept called parental liability which can put parents on the hook for their child's negligent or criminal actions.

If a child is under 18, parental civil liability can make parents financially responsible for property damage under theories like negligent supervision (where a parent knows it is necessary to control a child and does not) or the "family car doctrine" (which holds the owner of a family car responsible for damage caused by a family member while driving). Also, parental criminal responsibility can cover cases like firearm access, computer hacking, and truancy.

Spring break is an exciting, albeit dangerous, time for kids. Non-custodial parents should do their best to know where their kids are, and custodial parents should make sure their kids are on their best behavior.

For more answers to your spring break-related custody questions, check out FindLaw Answers' free forum on Child Custody and Support or consult an experienced child custody lawyer near you.

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