Divorce is a major life transition that requires each member of the family to settle into a new routine and find their new normal. This includes standard daily activities, but it also includes special occasions, like holidays and vacations.
If you are divorced and looking to treat your children to a vacation, you must make sure it does not violate the custody agreement/parenting plan beforehand. All vacation plans should be discussed in advance with the other parent if they might disrupt the parenting time schedule that is in place.
If you fail to do so, you could be slapped with an Order to Show Cause alleging you have violated the other parent’s rights—or worse, charged with parental kidnapping. The rules surrounding custody and parenting time are different in each state. If you are divorced in New Jersey and trying to plan a vacation with your children, here’s what you need to know.
Custody Agreements and Vacation
A New Jersey Superior Court case ruled in 2015 that vacations are excellent opportunities for parents to bond with their children, and the ability to travel together and make memories is an important part of childhood and the parent-child relationship. In most cases, both parents are encouraged to enjoy “reasonable vacation time” with their children throughout the year.
Most custody agreements and parenting plans will have a clause (or clauses) dealing with vacation periods. You should explicitly discuss the language you wish to include regarding vacations with your attorney. That language should say whether you are allowed to travel with your children, when, how far, and for how long.
If no such language exists in your custody agreement or parenting plan, a parent is generally allowed to travel with his/her children for as long as they have custody. For example, if a parent without primary custody is allowed to keep the kids for three days at a time, he or she is free to use those days for travel, as long as the children are returned on time to the primary parent.
If both parents agree in advance to a longer vacation, custody can be temporarily extended. Failing such an agreement, one parent can file a Motion or Order to Show Cause with the court, seeking extended time with the children to allow for a longer vacation.
Stopping a Vacation
Your ex-spouse is never legally permitted to disrupt the custody and parenting time without your consent. But that doesn’t mean some ex-spouses won’t try to take children on vacation anyway without your consent.
In some cases, a parent might be worried the children are at-risk for parental kidnapping or other potential harm. To protect the safety and best interest of the children, a parent can ask the court to temporarily revoke the children’s passports, temporarily ban interstate and international travel for the children, or request an emergency custody modification order to keep them home. Parents can also register children with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert System to receive a notification if someone tries to apply for a passport for the child.
Meet with a Family Law Attorney in New Jersey
New Jersey family courts typically consider a vacation to be a productive and healthy activity for children. Whether you are trying to get approval for a vacation or stop a vacation from happening, you will need to clearly articulate why doing so would be in the “best interest of the child.”
The family law attorneys at Arons & Solomon have decades of experience in resolving custody disputes and helping parents modify existing custody arrangements. Contact us today for a free consultation on your parental rights and custody options.