July 1, 2016/by Shari Bornstein
Family vacations are filled with excitement. The anticipation of the upcoming adventure fills the home along with suitcases that beg to be packed. Vacationing families create life long memories and traditions that are the subjects of scrapbooks and reminiscing around the dinner table. Remember that time at the beach house when…?
For parents who live apart from their children, vacation time nurtures the parent-child bond. Suspended is the grind of daily life. No laundry or homework to be done. Grocery shopping and cooking are optional depending on the destination. The regular parenting schedule with its weekly transitions is now uninterrupted. Ahhhh.
Sometimes, it takes a bit more interaction with your co-parent to launch a stress-free vacation with your children if you no longer reside together. Below are some tips to consider:
If you are in the process of drafting a court order, consider including the date that you will tell your co-parent when you want to take your vacation. Consider whether vacation time will be scheduled around summer camp or company shut downs? Will your vacation weeks be taken back to back or will they be spaced out over the summer? Will one parent’s choice trump the other if you both happen to choose the same week (unlikely, but it does happen)?
If you have a court order, hopefully it includes answers to the questions above. Once you decide which week(s) you want, send an email to your co-parent with the dates of your vacation. Ask your co-parent to confirm receipt of your email so that you can complete travel plans without cancellation fees (flight, hotel, attraction tickets). Don’t assume that your co-parent doesn’t already have something scheduled during his/her regular parenting time. Sometimes, an early morning flight may require a change in the parenting plan. If you would like the children to sleep in your home the night before you have to leave early to head to the airport, include this request in a business-like email. Include a travel itinerary, especially if you are flying. Don’t wait for the last minute for any of these details. This has nothing to do with your co-parent controlling you. It has to do with productive co-parenting communication and avoiding conflict that can cast a shadow over the excitement of planning and enjoying your vacation with your children.
If your vacation plans require that the child bring special clothing, bicycle or special toy, politely ask your co-parent in an email to get the items ready when the children transition to your care for vacation. Do not ask your child to be the messenger for this information or be responsible for remembering the items.
Before you leave for vacation, discuss how your co-parent will have contact with your child while you’re away. Will you pick a certain date and time? Will they speak on the phone or FaceTime/Skype? Because it’s your uninterrupted parenting access and everyone wants to make the most out of this time, you might be unavailable during a predetermined time, say Wednesday at 5:00 because you have a chance to stay late at a park. As soon as you know this, contact your co-parent and offer another time for your child to speak with your co-parent.
Make sure that you pack your child’s passport if you are traveling outside the country.
If your child requires medication, pack it in your carryon luggage if you are flying or in a place that you can easily access it. It is important to anticipate flight delays or other instances that might unintentionally delay your return (or: Oh, no. My insulin pump was in my bathing suit pocket when I jumped into the pool). Request a vacation override with the insurance provider to ensure that you have a sufficient supply of medication and supplies, just in case.
Send a picture of your child enjoying vacation time. If your co-parent was nervous about your child going away, your child’s smiling face will take care those fears. Hopefully, you’ll receive the same back while your child is on vacation with your co-parent.
Now pass the sunscreen.
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Shari Bornstein is an attorney and mediator.