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When separated parents share custody, vacations can often be a contentious issue. Although spring break can be a great time for a family trip, if you don't plan properly, it might lead to family drama, and potentially a court petition to modify a custody order.
Custody orders will often specify how vacations or school breaks are handled, but sometimes the orders are silent on these issues, or there might not be a custody order in place. If a dispute arises, you may need to seek relief from the family court. As such, if you and your co-parent agree about a vacation that is outside the court order, you will want documentation to prove the agreement.
Below you'll find three tips to help you avoid child custody disputes and issues related to spring break and vacations.
1. Plan Early and in Writing
The earlier you plan, the better off you'll be, but only if you share those plans with your co-parent. If you refuse to share the big details of the plan, like where you're going, it could lead to legal headaches. This allows any disputes to be addressed well in advance of the actual trip, as well as allows schedules to be planned accordingly.
Particularly if the vacation being planned requires a deviation from the custody order, the conversation you have with your co-parent should be in writing, so that you can establish the record if you need to later petition the court for relief, or are alleged to have violated the court's order.
2. Send Reminders Leading Up to Vacation in Writing
While your child might be excited about the vacation, your co-parent may be deliberately indifferent. Sending written reminders in the weeks leading up the vacation is recommended. This can help ensure that things go smoothly, and reduce the likelihood that your co-parent will make "last minute plans" and ruin your planned trip.
Additionally, if the matter needs to be addressed in court, having documentation to show you not only sent written plans, but also reminders, will likely help your case.
3. Modify Custody Orders to Include Fair Vacation Procedure
Unfortunately, when it comes to child custody issues, sometimes the only way to avoid future disputes is to seek relief from the court. If you've had a vacation derailed because of your co-parents deliberate, or careless, actions, you may be able to petition the court for a modification of the custody order, or pursue an action for custodial interference.
Frequently, courts split or alternate a child's vacation time in a custody order, and can even include informal procedures for requesting a deviation from that schedule. If you're dealing with a difficult co-parent, it is advisable to seek a legal consultation to address your specific situation, as child custody matters vary depending on state law, as well as each particular case's facts.