What you should know and do before taking your kids on vacation

If you're a divorced parent who's making plans to take your kids on vacation somewhere other than the Jersey Shore this summer, it's a good idea to review your custody and visitation agreement. Does it prohibit you or your co-parent from taking the kids out of state without the other's written consent? You may not remember that you and your spouse put that provision in place back when you first divorced and didn't have a lot of mutual trust.

Even if you have no such provision in your place, it's a good idea to let your co-parent know if you plan to take the kids out of the state -- even if it's just a few days in Manhattan for some sightseeing and a Broadway show. Getting some sort of written permission from your co-parent can prevent misunderstandings and disputes later.

Some experts recommend that parents who are planning to take their children outside the state draft a child travel consent letter and ask their co-parent for a notarized signature -- even if nothing in their custody agreement prohibits them from traveling with the kids while they have custody of them.

This can help the co-parent know where their kids are, who's with them and what they'll be doing. It can go a long way to building trust and encourage them to reciprocate when they take the kids on vacation.

It's a good idea to include the following information in the letter:

  • Who will be on the trip
  • Where you'll be traveling
  • Contact information for you and your children while you're away
  • When you'll be traveling

Basically, this is a "who, what, when and where" of your trip. A full itinerary isn't a bad idea if you're going to more than one place.

If you plan to take the kids abroad, you may need permission from your co-parent even if you have the authorization to travel anywhere within the U.S. You'll also need to make sure their passports and possibly other travel documents are in order.

If you're in doubt about whether you need permission to take your kids outside of the state, it's always wise to err on the side of caution. Consult your custody, visitation and parenting time agreements. If you have any questions or if you believe that your co-parent is unfairly objecting to your plans, it's a good idea to talk with your attorney.

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