As many parents prepare for summer break they often lose track of time and many key and important details of their summer plans fall through the cracks.
So often parents fail to look at their parenting plans and review the specific terms of the summer time sharing schedule and the important requirements regarding his/her ability to take a vacation with their child during the summer. Frequently, parents make the assumption that since it is my week during the summer or in some cases my entire month I am free to do as I wish. This is a dangerous assumption because the parenting plan that governs these provisions should have been ratified and approved by a Judge with an accompanying order adopting said parenting plan. Therefore, failure to review the parenting plan prior to your departure and failure follow its terms may place an individual in direct violation of a court order.
The scenarios are many but a common example is as follows. A Father decides to book a trip during his time sharing with the minor child during his designated time sharing in the month of July. The Father does not review his parenting plan and just assumes that since it is his time sharing that he can do whatever he wishes. The Father believes that it is a vacation that the child is excited about and therefore, there is no way that any problem can arise. The parenting plan has specific language regarding out of state and foreign travel. The Father plans to take the child to Egypt to tour the pyramids of Giza and surrounding areas. He and the child are flying out of Orlando and will be staying near Cairo. Two weeks prior to the trip the child conveys to the Mother that Daddy is taking him to Egypt. This is the first time the Mother is made aware of this travel. The parenting plan is quite specific on this topic and requires that any foreign travel with the minor child must be agreed upon and the parties are required to give at least 45 days advance notice prior to travel. The parties are also required to provide a detailed itinerary with contact information for the parent and the minor child, addresses where they will be staying, detailed flight information, etc. The Father does none of these and has a photo copy of the child’s passport which allows him to book the child’s airline ticket.
The Father requests the child’s passport for the trip and the Mother refuses to deliver the passport because: a). The Father failed to follow the proper procedure as detailed in the parenting plan, b). The Father never notified the Mother and the only way she found out about the trip was due to the statement by the minor child, c). The Mother recently read a travel advisory discouraging Americans to travel to Egypt and she fears for the child’s safety. The Father makes a second demand of the passport and the Mother refuses. At this stage what should the Father do? The Father has options; however, they are less than ideal. He can file an Emergency Motion before the Court requesting that the Mother deliver the passports and hope that he can get a hearing scheduled within the next two weeks prior to the scheduled date of departure. He can make another request to the Mother with the slim hope that he can assuage her concerns or he might be forced to cancel the trip. This situation, as you can imagine, causes all parties a considerable amount of stress and in reality it is highly likely all of this was completely avoidable.
It may not be the most entertaining read but I strongly encourage all of my clients and the public at large to pull out your Final Judgment and Parenting Plan frequently to review it, especially, when you are planning a summer trip. Do not wait until the end and then have issues arise right before your departure. Follow the plan and operate under it accordingly. It will make for a better life for all involved. Additionally, make your travel plans as detailed as possible and begin working on them at the beginning of every year. Waiting to the last minute is never advisable. When making plans make sure that you include the other parent on any issue for which their consent or, at minimum, their awareness is required. Operating in the dark only causes a greater level of apprehension from the other parent and in no way benefits the minor child.
If you are worried about potential summer vacation time sharing conflicts contact us and let us begin working to help you today. For more information on time sharing issues please contact the law firm of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates.