When the parents of minor children divorce, it’s important for a number of reasons to establish a precise schedule for vacation and travel plans.

Holiday and vacation schedules are usually dealt with in a comprehensive parenting plan which becomes the foundation for co-parenting after a divorce.

Here are some of the questions that your own parenting plan should answer:

1. Who may the child travel with?
2. Will an ex-spouse’s new “significant other” be included in vacation or travel plans?
3. Which parent will pay for the child’s travel gear and transportation?
4. Will days be missed from school?
5. How will the parents communicate during travel and vacation times?
6. Are there any conditions or reasons (such as health reasons) that limit a child’s travel?

Answering these questions as the parenting plan is written creates certainty and stability for the child while helping the parents avoid disputes or misunderstandings in the future.

WHAT SHOULD GO INTO A SUCCESSFUL PARENTING PLAN?

When the parenting plan is written, each parent should express his or her thoughts, concerns, and preferences regarding travel and vacations and how their “co-parenting” should work.

Even when divorced parents communicate well and remain on good terms, it’s smart to look at a school calendar and create a tentative vacation and travel plan – a year at a time – so that parents and children both know what to expect.

Children and parents deserve assurance that they will have quality time with each other on a regular basis and especially during vacations and holidays.

Downloadable worksheets and even parenting software programs are available to help divorced parents easily create a travel and visitation schedule.

HOW SHOULD PARENTS DEAL WITH VACATION AND TRAVEL PLANS?

Parents should begin to create a parenting plan by clearly indicating to one another their first choices or preferences of dates or time frames for visitations and for travel with the children. Those preferences may change later, but this is the place to start.

Although these preferences may change over time, discussing them can be a good starting point for developing a practical and successful co-parenting plan.

Perhaps the first thing divorcing parents need to decide on a parenting plan is how their future parenting decisions will be made. This includes how vacation and travel dates get chosen along with all of the logistics and planning.

Parents may require written notification from each other of travel arrangements and of changes-of-plan by email or text so that there is documentation.

WHAT ARRANGEMENTS MUST BE MADE BEFORE TRAVEL WITH CHILDREN?

For any particular travel or vacation, a basic itinerary should be exchanged and should include departure dates, the method of travel (including flight numbers or other tracking information), lodging details, and a list of the scheduled activities.

Parents may choose to have the children call the non-traveling parent when the plane lands, upon arriving at the lodging location, or when returning from particular activities.

Making this type of arrangement can keep the non-traveling parent “in the loop” and ease some of the anxieties that parent may have.

WHY ARE MORE CHILDREN TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY WITH PARENTS?

Smartphones, jet travel, and the internet have made international marriages far more common in the 21st century, so international divorces are also now common.

International travel for children after a divorce, as you might imagine, is more complicated – and typically triggers more anxiety – than travel within the U.S.

Here are some suggestions for a non-traveling parent that may help reduce the anxiety of having your child travel internationally:

1. Passports: Parenting agreements may specify which parent will keep a child’s passport or will be responsible for acquiring it.

2. Safety concerns: If there is any question at all regarding the safety of a particular international destination, check with the U.S. Department of State to see if any alerts or warnings have been issued.

3. International activities: A non-traveling parent will probably want to discuss with the traveling parent precisely what activities the children may be participating in.

WHAT IS THE TOP CONCERN WHEN A CHILD LEAVES THE COUNTRY?

Of course, the leading concern that a divorced parent may have when sending a child abroad is the fear that the other parent may not allow the child to return to the United States. It’s rare, but it’s happened.

If there is a credible threat of one parent taking the child and leaving the country, the other parent should immediately seek a restraining order or an emergency custody order.

To seek such an order in Indiana, have the help of an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

WHAT IS A “NE EXEAT” BOND?

In most of these cases, however, a surety bond called a “Ne Exeat” bond (“no leaving”) is the legal remedy. The bond is used to guarantee that the parent traveling with the children will comply with the terms of the divorce agreement.

The Ne Exeat bond is set at the estimated cost that a parent in the U.S. will incur in pursuing legal action if the other parent does not return with the child to the United States.

A judge presented with the request for the traveling parent to secure a Ne Exeat Bond will consider the testimony of both parents.

However, a judge may choose not to order a Ne Exeat Bond if the traveling parent has no history of attempting to conceal the child and has so far complied with visitation and custody orders.

HOW CAN A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELP?

Here in Indiana, a skilled Lake County family law attorney can explain more about the Ne Exeat bond and about the rights of a non-traveling parent when children travel internationally with their other parent.

If the non-traveling parent has a legitimate fear that the other parent will not return to the United States, that parent must seek the advice of a family law attorney with experience in international abduction cases.

Some states like Arizona have different procedures, so it is best to advise a divorce lawyer in Tucson, AZ.

WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL COSTS?

When drafting their parenting plan, parents should decide if the children’s travel expenses should be addressed in the parenting agreement or determined on more of an “as-you-go” basis.

Most of the details regarding any particular trip or vacation should be discussed by the parents well in advance.

A parenting agreement cannot foresee and include every detail, so parents must try to remain on good terms and try to keep lines of communication open.

WHAT MUST YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOUR CHILD TRAVELS?

With so many details and concerns, it’s easy to forget that travel, holidays, and vacations are supposed to be fun – and big adventures for children.

Be a concerned parent – and if you need legal help or advice, obtain it at once – but encourage your child to learn, to be safe, and to have fun when he or she is traveling. Nothing is more important than the safety, the well-being, and the happiness of your children.