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4 Best Practices for Traveling With Shared Custody of Kids

Having kids can make going on vacation significantly more difficult. You need to coordinate more tickets, plan around your kids’ energy levels and needs, and keep track of them in busy airports and other new environments. As difficult as this may be, traveling with kids can be even more complex when you share joint custody. 

Many custody orders have strict requirements for what you need to do before doing any significant travel with your children. Even if the order is relatively lenient, you still need to coordinate with your co-parent to ensure you’re on the same page, or you may face serious consequences.

A little preparation can make a world of difference, though. These four best practices can simplify traveling with your kids, whether you’re going on an overnight trip or a multi-week vacation. 

1. Read Your Court Order Start to Finish

Most parents who share joint custody of their children have a court child custody order and parenting plan in place dictating how they will divide time and responsibilities. If this is true for you, you must fully understand your court order before planning any travel. 

There are many ways that these orders can be structured in Oregon, and the specific structure of yours will affect what you need to do before you travel. You need to read your order carefully for terms like:

  • Whether you have the right to travel with your children at all.
  • Whether you have the right to negotiate changes to your parenting schedule to accommodate longer trips.
  • Whether there is a limit on how much time you can spend traveling with your kids.
  • Whether and how much advance notice you must provide your co-parent before taking a trip. 
  • Whether your co-parent needs to consent before you take your kids somewhere.
  • Differences in the rules for in-state vs. out-of-state travel. 

If you aren’t sure what your order says, it’s best to consult with an experienced child custody attorney rather than guess. Your lawyer will ensure you understand your rights and options, reducing the risk that you face accusations of parental kidnapping for a routine vacation. 

2. Give Your Co-Parent Advance Notice 

Some custody orders do not specifically require you to give your co-parent advance notice before traveling. However, even if you aren’t obligated to tell them, it’s still a good idea to communicate with them long in advance. 

There are a couple reasons this matters. First, if you have a flexible parenting plan, your co-parent may already have plans for when you want to go on vacation. Letting them know about a trip in advance ensures you don’t accidentally double-book your kids. It also prevents them from claiming they were unaware of the trip if they decide to make plans for those dates.

Furthermore, in some cases, advance notice is required. If you don’t let your children’s other parent know you’ll be taking them somewhere, you could face parental kidnapping charges. You may also need the other person’s consent to take your children out-of-state or on overnight trips. Letting them know about your plans well in advance increases the odds that they will grant permission in time. 

3. Share Your Travel Plans in Writing

It’s excellent to be on good terms with your co-parent. However, even if you have an amicable and supportive parenting relationship, you should still ensure everything is in writing. Yes, you should do this even if you discuss your travel plans in person or over the phone.

Getting things in writing provides a paper trail that can be invaluable if a dispute arises. If the other person changes their mind or claims they misunderstood, you’ll have their agreement to your trip written down. That makes all the difference if you need to defend yourself in court. 

Written notice and consent don’t need to be formally written contracts, of course. It can be as simple as emailing them the details about your trip, including dates and locations. If you need their consent, you can request that they respond by email confirming your request. This should cover your bases and reduce any confusion about your plans down the road. 

4. Keep Them Up-to-Date About Travel Details

Once you’re ready to plan your trip, share your specific travel details with your co-parent. Useful information to share include:

  • Travel method and tracking details
  • Your accommodations and address
  • A general itinerary of your trip
  • A phone number to reach you or your children while you’re away

Even if your order doesn’t require this, it provides them with peace of mind and gives you a valuable safety net. For example, if you or a child gets hurt, your co-parent will have the information they need to help. 

Even the best-planned vacations can be disrupted. If bad weather arises or you need to book a different hotel, share the updated information. The more open and upfront you are about your plans, the smoother your trip should be. 

Prepare for Shared Custody Vacations With Regele Law, LLC

Sharing custody of your children shouldn’t prevent you from making lifelong memories with them. You most likely have the right to take your kids on vacation even if you have a joint child custody order in place. However, it’s crucial to understand your order to make sure you uphold your responsibilities before traveling. If you have any questions or concerns about your order, the skilled child custody attorneys at Regele Law, LLC, can help. Our Salem, Oregon, law firm is dedicated to supporting your family, whatever that entails. We are prepared to help you understand your rights and obligations and ensure you know what to expect before taking your first vacation as a single parent. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your concerns and learn more about how we can help you.