Can you take vacations with your child if you are divorced and there is a child custody order in place?
The short answer is yes you can, but you should make sure that 1) the custody order provides for vacation time, 2) you have permission if you are going to leave the state or country, and 3) you document everything.
Below, we will discuss vacations and child custody in more detail, including:
- When it is okay to take vacations with your child if there is a child custody order,
- The importance of permission and documentation,
- Specific concerns when you have full custody or when you only have visitation, and
- Potential legal problems that could arise from taking a vacation with your child when there is a custody order.
Is it Okay to Take Vacations if We Have a Custody Order in SC?
Can you take vacations with your child if you are divorced and there is a custody order in place? Holiday trips, family visits, or even an impromptu family vacation to Yellowstone?
In most cases, it is fine. But, especially when there is conflict or tension between the parents, you should make sure that 1) your custody order provides for family vacation time, 2) the other parent gives permission if you are leaving the state or country, and 3) you document your communications with the other parent through emails or other writings.
What Does the Custody Order Say?
First, make sure that your custody order (often incorporated into the final divorce decree) provides for vacation time and that there are no restrictions on traveling out of state with your child.
If, at the time of your divorce, you know that you will want to leave the country or state for vacations (for example, if you have relatives in Canada or another country), you should ensure that this is provided for in your custody order.
Your custody order should include a detailed child visitation schedule that may include extended holiday or summer visits with the child, and, in some cases, it may include specific details for vacation plans including when, where, and for how long the parent can take the child on vacations.
If you have custody of your child during the time that you will be taking your child on vacation, and if there are no restrictions in the custody order prohibiting travel out of state or out of the country, you should be fine – but – you should still make sure that the other parent is fully informed of where you are going, how long you will be gone, and how they can reach your child while on vacation, and document your communications with the other parent in writing.
Vacations and Child Custody – Get Permission
What if the custody order says the other parent has visitation from August 1 through August 31, but your vacation plans will extend through August 7?
If the other parent agrees in writing to allow the vacation, possibly in exchange for additional visitation time, there should not be any problems. If the other parent does not agree, however, you must 1) abide by the terms of your custody order and change the dates of your vacation, or 2) get your custody order amended to get the court’s permission to take your child on the vacation.
Even when there is no conflict and the vacation will be solely during the times that you have custody, you should inform the other parent of the details and document your communications with them via email or another form of writing.
If you are traveling out of the state or country with your child, you should 1) get permission from the other parent even when it does not violate the custody order and 2) keep an open dialogue with the other parent, making sure that they know:
- Where you will be,
- When you will return,
- The purpose of the trip,
- Who you will be staying with or traveling with, and
- How to reach you or the child if there is an emergency.
If the Other Parent has Full Custody and You Have Visitation Rights
If you have visitation rights for four weeks in the summertime and you want to take a vacation with your child during your scheduled time, you should be okay to take a vacation with your child but, to prevent any potential issues, you should still seek permission from the other parent before leaving the state or country.
If your vacation does not fall within your scheduled visitation times, you must have permission from the custodial parent or the court.
If You Have Full Custody and the Other Parent Has Visitation Rights
If you have full custody of your child and your vacation time does not conflict with the other parent’s visitation schedule, you should be fine but, to prevent any potential issues, you should still let the other parent know and keep them fully informed.
If your vacation time does conflict with the other parent’s schedule, you must 1) get permission from the other parent or 2) get permission from the court before leaving with the child.
Can Vacations Cause Legal Problems with Child Custody?
If you have a good working relationship with the other parent and you 1) have permission to take the child on vacation or 2) have a custody order that clearly allows you to take the child on vacation on the dates in question, you should be fine. Just keep the other parent informed and get permission when appropriate.
What could go wrong if you have a conflict with the other parent or if you violate the court order?
There are many possible negative consequences, but the worst-case scenario is you could be arrested and charged with kidnapping your child…
SC Code § 16-17-495, “custodial interference,” makes it a crime to “take or transport, or cause to be taken or transported, the child from the legal custodian for the purpose of concealing the child” or circumventing the custody order:
(A)(1) When a court of competent jurisdiction in this State or another state has awarded custody of a child under the age of sixteen years or when custody of a child under the age of sixteen years is established pursuant to Section 63-17-20(B), it is unlawful for a person with the intent to violate the court order or Section 63-17-20(B) to take or transport, or cause to be taken or transported, the child from the legal custodian for the purpose of concealing the child, or circumventing or avoiding the custody order or statute.
If you leave the state with your child and keep the child outside of the state for more than 72 hours without notice to the child’s legal custodian, there is an inference that you intended to kidnap the child…
“Custodial interference” is a felony punishable by up to five years, but 1) if the child is returned within three days it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years, and 2) if the child was transporting using force or the threat of force, it is a felony that carries up to ten years in prison.
It is okay to take vacations with your child, just:
- Make sure you are complying with the terms of your custody order, or
- Get written permission from the other parent, or
- Get a modification of the terms of your custody order, and
- Keep the other parent informed at all times to avoid misunderstandings and potential legal problems.
Questions about taking vacations with your child when you have a custody order in SC?
If you are considering separation or divorce and there are children involved, or if you need to modify an existing custody order so that you can take vacations with your child, your Myrtle Beach child custody lawyer on the Axelrod team may be able to help.