Almost every parenting plan includes the right of both parties to take their children on vacation during the year (often limited to two weeks per parent), a right which supersedes the normal parenting schedule. However, it is rare to find an agreement which more specifically defines these rights and/or accounts for the mechanism for effectuating the right to vacation time, except for the requirement of providing advanced notice and an itinerary with contact information.
Recently, the trial court in Ocean County was presented with a situation where two extremely litigious parents both took unreasonable positions as to the issue of international vacation and travel of their child, prompting the Court to provide a written decision which is enlightening in its handling of the matter. More specifically, the mother wanted to travel with the parties’ child to the Netherlands for two weeks to visit her family and then have the child remain for an additional 8 weeks without her. The father wanted to restrain the child from travelling abroad altogether and refused to sign the necessary documents for the child to obtain a passport.
Ultimately, the Court held as follows:
1) Vacations are extremely important, special and time-honored parts of family life, providing unique opportunities for a child to bond with parents and create highly positive memories.
2) Following divorce, so long as there are no safety restrictions prohibiting unsupervised time with the child, each parent is generally entitled to the freedom of enjoying reasonable vacation time with their child. Further, parents as joint legal custodians have an implicit obligation to deal fairly and reasonably with each other in the mutual scheduling of summer vacations consistent with the child’s best interests.
3) Generally, a parent has the right to request the issuance of a passport for a child for legitimate travel and vacation purposes outside of the United States.
4) When a parent refuses to cooperate in good faith in a passport application for the child’s travel with the vacationing parent, and when there is no evidence that the traveling parent is a genuine flight risk, the court may appoint the traveling parent as power of attorney to execute the child’s necessary passport application and supporting forms on the other party’s behalf.
The important takeaway from this case is that when both parents are unreasonable no one wins, as money is spent litigating a matter which should be easily resolved, saving the funds to be enjoyed on vacation or to be saved for college. However, if you are in need of an attorney to help deal with custody issues, please call our office today.