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Child custody and travel: What single parents should know

Summer is one of the most popular times for families to take a vacation. With kids out of school, it is easier to plan trips involving them. If you are a divorced parent, however, traveling is a little more complicated.

How to handle travel is one of the common questions parents have after divorce. Travel arrangements, however, don't have to be complicated.

A mutual agreement

One of the best options for divorced parents is to come up with an arrangement that works for everyone. Mediation can be a valuable tool when it comes to custody agreements.

If you and your former spouse are on the same page, it makes it easier for both of you to spend quality time with your kids. Most divorce judgments require pre-planning and notice to the other parent to clear the proposed travel dates, as well as provision of the travel itinerary and contact information for the child for the duration of the trip. Judgments or parenting plans which fail to address travel issues may result in parents going back to court to obtain orders whenever a new travel issues arises, which has a number of downsides.

Obeying court orders

If you had a contentious divorce, you will need to follow the guidelines laid out by the judge. If you have joint custody, this will likely require notifying the other parent and getting their permission to take your child out of the state, especially if your trip overlaps with the other parent's parenting time. You also need to make sure to follow any restrictions outlined in your order.

Extended travel vs. relocation

It is important to distinguish between an extended vacation and an attempted relocation. The law is more complicated if you plan on temporarily or permanently relocating. What the other parent or the court will allow likely depends upon your specific situation, the needs of your child, the language in your judgment (if you are in a post-judgment phase), and as always, the best interests of the child. Requesting that a child be allowed to move away is a complicated legal matter when contrasted with a typical request for extended vacation.

As long as you follow your custody agreement, you should have no problem taking a vacation with your children. Travel is usually a wonderful experience for children; courts typically recognize the inherent benefits. 

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