One of the first tasks separating parents need to arrange is a parenting plan and a list of responsibilities for each parent. During the school year, a schedule of the days, pick-up and drop-off points, and weekend rotations becomes a regular routine. But once long holiday weekends, vacation periods, and summer breaks come about, new issues arise.
The most important issue to consider is having a holiday schedule that supersedes your regular parenting schedule. With this in place, you can detail the fact that each parent will alternate holidays and school breaks throughout the year. Such a schedule can also avoid future arguments over who gets to plan a vacation with the kids during certain time periods. Your parenting plan also should include some of the following travel-related provisions:
• Parents should notify each other if they plan to take the child out of state, and provide airline information, departure and arrival times, and hotel information where children can be reached for communication.
• Ensure both parents have access to birth certificates, passports, and other key documents required for traveling. If you are travelling out of state or out of the country with your child, keep a copy of your child’s birth certificate and your divorce agreement with you. The TSA is authorized to seek proof of parentage from any person traveling with a minor. And, remember, the rules have become more strict: If you’re traveling anyplace outside of the country — even Canada or the Caribbean — every person needs a passport.
Divorcing parents need to know that applications for a minor’s passport must be signed by both parents. Additionally, the passport is excellent documentation of where the child has traveled, which allows the non-traveling parent to verify when the child left and when the child returned in case there are any questions of deception in the traveling parent’s agenda.
• Address sleeping arrangements. What if one parent is against co-sleeping and the other wants to take the child somewhere where there is only one bed? What if you have an infant and there’s concern about having a traveling crib or some other pack-and-play setup?
• What happens if the traveling parent wants to take the child on a trip that interferes with the school schedule, resulting in missed school days? Your son or daughter would enjoy going to Legoland or Disneyland, but what if that means missing the first full week back in school?
• How often should the children be able to communicate with the other parent while traveling? While this may appear to be a minute issue, you’d be surprised at how often this can create an emotional storm!
No matter how much you plan and think through the issues, there will undeniably be some related to travel that will frustrate either parent. But, the more issues you can address in advance, the less frustration you are likely to feel down the road.