Professional Advice: Vacation and Visitiation

Professional Advice: Vacation and Visitiation

Attorney Joseph Borsberry answers some of your question regarding shared parenting and vacation time.
What summer visitation is a divorced or separated parent entitled to?

Summer or vacation time is often the best time for divorced or separated parents to spend quality time with their children free from distractions such as school, homework, work schedules etc.  Both parents are entitled to time with their kids so they can have a close relationship with a child.
For non-custodial parents, this is a chance to have more than just holiday or alternate weekend time.   Custodial parents, too, should have some extended vacation time with their children.
Parents are naturally limited by their own work schedules.  However, if a parent gets one or two weeks off each summer, they should be allowed to have some quality uninterrupted time with their child, so they can go on vacation, perhaps out of state or have quality one on one time.

How does a parent get extended time with their child?

Divorced or separated parents should first try to communicate with the other parent and ask for this.  If one parent is asked for something from another parent, look at it from the child's point of view and the other parent's point of view.  If it reasonable or enjoyable for your child, you should agree.  Don't look at mathematically as less time for you.
If you can't agree, refer back to your court order.  If there is no court order, hire an attorney to seek extended vacation time.  If it isn't part of a court order seek it.  You must file a petition with the court and have court decide.  Have an attorney help with this.  Do it early because court rules and overcrowded dockets make this process slow.

What are some concerns to keep in mind when negotiating an extended visitation schedule?

First, look at how much vacation time you have from your job.  If you are working all summer, it will be harder for you to ask for several weeks of extended time with your child if they will be with a babysitter during that time.
Second, consider where both parents live and the schedule used the rest of the year.  If parents live on opposite parts of the country, and a non-custodial parent doesn't get every other weekend, perhaps it is best to have court order award the other parent several weeks during the summer, school breaks, three day weekends from school, etc.
Third,   try to minimize travel time.  Kids would rather be having fun with a parent than traveling in a car.  Avoid several trips of back and forth if you can.
Fourth, know that state law requires notice when you take a child out of state. A parent  is required to provide details any time they take a child out of state, including contact numbers, departure and returns dates.  Give the other parent an itinerary.
Fifth, work on schedules early.  Consider the children's camp or sports schedules.  Know when your vacation schedules are. 
Sixth, be flexible and fair.  Weather events throw in wrench in schedules.  So do employers, sports teams etc.  Be willing to change plans as it will benefit your child for both parents to have extended time with their child.  Be fair.  If one parent is entitled to something, another parent should be as well. If there are conflicts, most court orders give one parent's the ability to have priority in scheduling in an even or odd year.
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