When parents are negotiating the rough waters of a divorce, conversations with lawyers obviously focus on the immediate, important and practical needs of the children…custody, living arrangements, education and child support. Often the idea of family vacation with the kids is dealt with as part of visitation rights…like who gets the kids for Christmas vs Thanksgiving.
Once the storm passes and the dust settles, life begins to move on. Vacations are part of a family’s healing process. Unfortunately, I’ve seen so much undo stress on single parents trying to plan a fun vacation after a divorce. Often single parents don’t know about these vacation road blocks until it’s too late. They start planning a fun vacation and suddenly they find themselves spending extra money or involved in another legal battle with their ex.
Children’s passports are often a sticking point for many divorced parents. U.S. law requires the signature of both parents on passport applications for children under the age of 16 or show documentation of sole custody. Check out https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/preventing/passport-req.html for full details. This may not be a problem if your child is 2 and you plan to spend summer vacations at your sister’s beach house. What happens when your child wants to take a High School trip to Europe? Think about how passport issues might affect future vacations or travel plans for your child.
Even if you do have a passport for your child, certain countries will require minor children traveling with just one parent to have a signed, notarized letter of permission to travel from the child’s co-parent in order to cross borders. This means, not only do you need your Ex’s permission to obtain a passport, you’ll need their cooperation obtaining letters of travel permission too.
Did you know, if you own more than $2500 or more in child support you are not eligible to receive a U.S. Passport or have your passport renewed until child support is paid in full? A groom who had booked a destination wedding with a travel colleague of mine found this out the hard way recently. The couple had paid for their resort stay, wedding ceremony and had over 50 guests joining them. He was denied a passport due to $10K owed in back child support. They also found themselves out the entire cost of the wedding because their travel insurance did not cover his lack of passport.
Single parent families should do their vacation planning with a travel agent who specializes in family travel. A good agent will know to ask about these issues in initial consultations. It’s not that we want to get all up in your business. We just want to protect you from having to pay an unwanted fines or penalties. They will help to insure you have all the proper documentation in hand before making your reservations to avoid any last minute expenses or disappointments.
For many attorneys, their time is money. If you need to come back to re-negotiate more terms of your divorce they are happy to oblige. Of course, this means less money available in your vacation fund not to mention the stress and aggravation of opening old wounds. Hopefully with some of the insights here, you can cover some of these vacation issues right from the beginning so that everyone can have a new beginning to look forward to.