There are so many life changes for families dealing with divorce. Trust me, my three kids and I understand this scenario first hand. There are so many complicated emotions and important practical decisions need to be addressed. Living arrangements, custody rules, visitation schedules and finances all have to be decided between parents and their lawyers. Often the last thing parents think about during the divorce is a family vacation.
Even under the very best of circumstances, divorces are stressful for all involved. Once the dust settles often a vacation is desperately needed by all. This is when newly single parents realize there is still unfinished business and sometimes old wounds are opened. Life will go on and you will want to vacation with your children. If possible, put the discussion out on the negotiation table early on in the divorce process.
During my first marriage, the extent of our travel was a few roadtrips to area theme parks when our kids were little. I always dreamed of traveling myself and wished the same for my children. After my divorce, as soon as finances would allow, I planned to travel with my children. This is where I ran into road blocks with my ex husband. Had I realized the rules ahead of time, I could have avoided a whole bunch of stress.
1. Put the Kids First - This is the golden rule when it comes to ALL divorce negotiations between parents. Your kids deserve your very best. You and your spouse many no longer love one another but you need to love your children. This means the two of you will need to figure out a way to co-parent your children until they are grown.
Kids from newly divorced families will undoubtably be dealing with anxiety and separation anxiety. A vacation while trying to adjust to a new lifestyle may be just want the doctor ordered or it could intensify their stress. Be particularly sensitive to their needs.
2. Plan Vacation FAR in Advance - If this is your first vacation after a divorce, you'll soon realize getting ready for your vacation means additional planning, paperwork and negotiation with your ex. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!! - That you have all necessary permissions and documentation in hand BEFORE you make reservations and pay for your trip. It is your reponsiblity to have proper documentation to travel. If you pay for your vacation and cannot get proper documentation from your spouse, you won't be allowed to travel and you MAY loose the entire cost of your vacation. This is something that is NOT covered by travel insurance.
3. Communication - If you have shared custody with your spouse then you will need to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to vacation. This is especially true if you plan to travel overseas with your kids (see documentation tip below). If this is difficult than the communication may need to go thru your lawyers. See tip number 2 - This is why you may need to plan your a vacation with your kids far in advance.
During your vacation, be aware that your kids may need additional communication with their parent back home. Honest communication will help to alleviate their anxiety and help them to adjust, especially when homesick.
4. Documentation - It will save you money and hassle in the long run if you discuss travel and vacations during your divorce negoitations. If you don't and later on decide that you want to take your kids out of the country for a tour, resort vacation or cruise you make have to go back to the negotiation table with your lawyer and ex. If you have full custody, you will be able to get your children their passports. You will need to include a copy of your custody papers along with regular necessary passport documentation. If you don't have full custody then you will need a co-parent's signature, cooperation and permission to obtain passports for your kids. Foreign countries may have additional entry requirements. In addition to a valid US passport, some foreign countries require a notorized letter of permission for single parents to travel with their children.
5. Scheduling - If you have shared custody chances are you have a visitation schedule with your ex. Some parents are ruled by the school calendar while others think they have a bit of wiggle room. Your Ex may not see eye to eye with your opinions. It's best to have dicussions about vacation timing and schedules before making deposits or paying for your reservations. Changes or cancellations normally come with expensive fees and penalties. We want you to avoid this.