Separated or divorced parents, manage, share, and allocate between them many aspects of everyday living. Some of these will be the more mundane tasks. Such as buying school supplies, attending sporting and school events, and taking care of registering the kids for extracurricular activities. Unless a written agreement or court order says otherwise, the parents must decide and negotiate the details of how these routine tasks split. Sometimes begrudgingly. But what’s the best way to split up the fun times? Like vacation?
For those parents well into the separation and divorce process, an agreed Parenting Plan or court order can largely cover the precise dates and duration of a child’s vacation with either parent. But for those who are still trying to negotiate their own compromise-based resolution pending a more formal hearing or agreement… It’s important to keep some points in mind.
Vacation is Part of the Co-Parenting Schedule
As a general principle – and absent any court-ordered or agreement-imposed constraints – parents should ideally have equal vacation time. Parents will also need to agree between themselves on how it will fit into the regular parenting schedule. (Incidentally, if the scheduled vacation inadvertently overlaps or encroaches on a parent’s existing schedule time, then the parents should agree on how to make it up at a later date.)
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Working Around the Parents’ Vacation
Next, the parents must take a hard look at their own availability, as well as that of the child. Some parents have jobs that offer generous vacation time, and freely allow them to choose and schedule that time off at whim. Others have jobs that do not allow any flexibility when it comes to booking time. Or jobs that allow them only limited weeks off per year.
In either case, both parents must work together to accommodate each other’s restrictions, limitations, and even preferences. And of course, this must fit seamlessly with the child’s own availability, with regard to his or her pre-booked summer camps, summer jobs, or extracurricular sports.
Planning is Key
This holds true for any vacation: Planning in advance is important.
At the time of writing, the Canadian federal and Ontario governments have continued their COVID-19 restrictions around travel. This has seen the government close borders, impose travel bans and restrictions, and require pre-trip screening and post-trip self-quarantine protocols for travelers returning from outside the country. Visits to foreign countries may require compliance with vaccination thresholds.
Needless to say, any intended travel with children must also take these mandates into account. Not only as to the destination, timing, and duration of travel, but also on the question of where (and in whose care) the children may need to spend any post-travel quarantine periods.
But even leaving these pandemic-related concerns aside, parents must discuss many other aspects of the intended vacation as well, including:
· What do the parents consider suitable vacation destinations for the child?
· What type or style of holidays are in contemplation? Will it require international travel? Or merely a local cottage getaway?
· Which modes of travel are suitable given the destination?
· How does the parent accomodate other factors such as the child’s own temperament and health conditions?
· Does each parent have to seek the permission of the other, to take the child out of Canada?
Parents should also arrange to exchange important identification and health care documents for the child. So that they are handed over to the travelling parent in time for the trip. This should include the child’s updated Passport, and any travel insurance documentation.
Especially if the child is young, part of the planning stage will involve the parents setting agreed rules. Not all destinations or activities are suitable for all children. One parent may have well-meaning plans, whereas the other may see them as too ambitious or unreasonable. (In light of the duration or nature of the travel experience, the level of risk, or the child’s own skills or interests.) The parents’ discussion could cover issues such as:
· Is the child allowed to engage in high-risk activities or sports while on vacation? Such as rock climbing? Parasailing? Scuba diving?
· Is the child of the age to participate in self-directed or independent excursions?
· How will the child’s vacation spending money be covered?
· If the vacation overlaps with any school time, will the child be expected to study or keep up with school work while travelling?
· Will the child be expected to contact the non-travelling parent while he or she is away?
On this last point, the parents should also agree about communication between themselves: This could involve agreeing on how often the parent who is taking the children on vacation will be touching base with the other, and using what methods. This will avoid frustration and concern by the non-vacationing parent, who will want to ensure the children are enjoying their time away.
Letter of Permission
Finally the federal government recommends that any Canadian minor-aged children who are travelling with only one parent should carry a signed Letter of Consent from the other parent. This document serves to confirm to Immigration authorities that the non-accompanying parent gave the child consent or permissionto travel. Although it is not a legal requirement in Canada, it can help simply travel substantially.
The government has even provided an interactive precedent form of Letter of Consent for separated or divorced parents to use, at: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children/consent-letter
The Bottom Line
Summer is nearly half-over and – especially with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions – remaining vacation time is an opportunity for parents to build precious memories. With these tips in mind, parents can avoid unnecessary disputes, and focus on maximizing those memory-making opportunities.