Tips on take care of little one custody and upcoming trip plans

Travel sites recommend booking your vacation plans now. But before you book your flight, check your custody agreement.

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With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror and the school year in full swing for most, the holidays are practically upon us. There are various days when your children are free from school and long weekends that need to be considered in the near future.

It’s important to plan ahead so your kids don’t have to wonder how they’re going to spend the long weekends and holidays.

Many gatherings will be back to “normal” this year for the first time since the pandemic began. And we’re entering what is likely to be the busiest travel season of the year as COVID restrictions ease and gas prices drop.

But if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or are in the middle of divorce proceedings, you probably already know how your divorce will change your family’s vacation plans this year.

This is especially true when children are involved.

Travel sites are advising travelers to book their vacation plans now, but before you book your flight, be sure to check your custody agreement. If you are still negotiating your custody issues, you should check with your attorney about what vacations you will be spending with your children in the upcoming school year and/or develop a vacation and vacation schedule.

Questions about splitting vacations and school holidays can become a significant source of anxiety and pressure, even with a recent separation or divorce, so ideally you can start talking and planning now, before the holiday season is in full swing.

So if you’re dreaming of a hassle-free vacation, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to child custody.

Clarify the plans with your co-parent first

If you are already divorced and have a settlement agreement that both parents have agreed to, refer to this document if you have questions about who will have the children, when, and for how long.

When working with my clients, I usually make very specific provisions for vacation plans. This may include who will have the children, when and where pickup and drop-off will be, and the shared itinerary if the children are traveling with a parent.

Discuss the plans with your co-parent before involving the children in the planning. When the kids know you and their other parent are on board with a plan, vacations become less stressful.

Make sure you don’t need to seek court approval when making changes.

Sometimes an agreement allows for flexibility regarding changes in vacation time between you and your co-parent, and sometimes it doesn’t. Make sure that if you and your co-parent change the rules of the agreement, you can do so without court approval.

Certain agreements specify how a holiday and vacation schedule may be changed, so read the “fine print”. If you have any questions, consult your attorney.

For example, your approval may require that you both agree to a change via email or text; Other agreements may require a signed document amending the agreement, and some may even require notarized documents. So that you don’t end up in a situation where your co-parent says “yes” to a change and pulls the rug out from under you after planning your vacation, you should strictly adhere to the provisions of the agreement.

Don’t have an agreement yet? Or maybe you have an agreement, but it doesn’t specifically relate to holiday-season custody plans. That’s okay.

In any event, speak to your attorney and also consider reaching out to your co-parent to discuss vacation plans as soon as possible so that everyone has time to discuss, consider and make reasonable arrangements.

Feel comfortable sharing time fairly and equitably.

In my experience, there is no uniform vacation policy.

Most divorce settlements provide for the “holidays” to be alternated or shared by the parents. That said, you may prefer greater flexibility. Perhaps both parents agree that one parent can have Christmas Eve and another Christmas Day, or you agree to split the Jewish holidays or the nights of Hanukkah. You might also consider breaking up holidays like Halloween so you can trick or treat with the kids. Thanksgiving weekend can include the long weekend so the kids can travel to see both sets of grandparents.

As I always say, being supportive of the other parent and allowing for a fulfilling relationship is critical to your children’s mental health, and will likely be important if you ever go to court for a custody hearing.

Get everything in writing.

Regardless of how you decide on vacation plans with your child, the most important element to ensure you reduce concern about this issue is to send the details of your vacation plans in writing to your co-parent and confirm their acceptance of the plan .

Work with your attorney as necessary, as it is important to document the plans in a legally secure agreement in case there is an unexpected change in plan or perspective.

And most importantly, try to avoid conflict.

We all know that the holiday season can be stressful, especially when you are in the middle of divorce proceedings or entering the first year after your divorce. When you add planning, logistics, and travel, family talks can quickly escalate into arguments. You, your ex-spouse, and your kids are probably all still figuring out how to adjust to the new normal of living in different homes.

As part of my practice, I work with many mental health professionals. Her consistent advice is to do everything possible to avoid conflict in front of your children, not to speak ill of your co-parent in front of your children, and, if necessary, to do everything possible to put your children’s needs first and your own .

It is also very important to protect your emotional well-being and the emotional health of your children as you will have difficult conversations and will inevitably be forced to compromise on what may be special and long-held family traditions.

Despite the frustration and sacrifice, do your best to celebrate and enjoy the many holidays ahead, and make sure your child is able to do so.

These opinions should not be taken as legal advice as each case is unique. In similar situations, please contact a specialist family law attorney in your area.

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