In addition to divvying up the finances, many couples spend the majority of the divorce process discussing the custody of their children. In most cases, parents create a shared parenting plan that lays out the details of their arrangement. Unfortunately, vacation time – and any time away from school – is often overlooked. It’s much easier to agree on the day-to-day whereabouts of the kids.
With spring break and summer vacation on the horizon, here are a few things to discuss with your ex.
- Plan far in advance. Regardless of how flexible your daily custody arrangement is, vacation time should be determined far enough in advance to allow ample time for planning. Summer vacation days, spring break and other vacations should be divided evenly between both parents. An every-other-year approach to certain holidays works well, too.
- Share the details. When taking your children on a vacation, it’s important to communicate the details of your trip to your ex. He or she has a right to know where you’re going and for how long, as well as information about how to reach you. If you’re leaving the country, you will also need a signed and notarized travel consent form from your ex.
- Establish a communication plan. Another thing you’ll want to discuss with your ex is how he or she will communicate with the kids while you’re away. You may want to plan specific times when they can chat, without losing sight of the fact that vacation is a time to unplug and connect – not to be tethered to a phone. Still, it’s important to be sensitive to your child’s needs. If he or she wants to contact your ex, make it happen.
- Put on a good face. If you’re the parent who’s not traveling with the kids, you may be feeling sad, especially if they’re vacationing in a place you’ve all been to before. Nevertheless, you’ll need to sound excited when talking to your kids. That means asking questions about the trip and eagerly awaiting their fun pictures and souvenirs. At the end of the day, you want your kids to enjoy time with your ex. If you act sad, that will only hamper their ability to relax and enjoy the trip.
- Discard the rules. If you and your ex can manage a vacation together with your children, that’s great. If you can’t, that’s fine, too. There are no rules when it comes to these situations. Keep in mind, however, that while a big happy family vacation might sound ideal to you, it could be confusing to your children. There’s a reason you and your ex no longer live together, and pretending to be a cohesive family unit could send mixed messages.
Whatever you and your ex decide, try to stay focused on what matters most. Vacation time with your children is an important opportunity to connect and create lasting memories.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.