1. Review Your Separation Agreement
    • Read through your Virginia Separation Agreement or your custody order(s). Is vacation time addressed? How are the holidays handled? Does vacation time or holiday time take precedence over regular parenting time? How much advance notice must you give the other parent? Do you understand the terms? Are there unclear or unfamiliar terms? A consultation with one of our Virginia divorce lawyers may be appropriate to determine your options.
  2. Talk to the Other Parent
    • If you and the other parent don’t have a vacation or holiday plan in place, talk to the other parent. If you do have a Virginia Separation Agreement or Order, see if you can talk about any changes or updates. Make sure that anything that you agree to is in writing and meets the requirements of your Virginia Separation Agreement or Custody Order (ie: signed, dated, or notarized). If you both can agree, make a schedule that best works for you, your children and the other parent. If not, contact one of our divorce attorneys located in Fairfax County and Prince William County or a mediator to see if they can help work out any disagreements.
  3. Give Advance Notice
    • Provide advanced notice of your intended holiday or vacation plans to the other parent. Don’t wait until the last minute. If your Virginia Agreement/Order says 30 days, do not wait until exactly 30 days. Give as much notice as possible to the non-traveling parent.  This also allows you to bring a petition or a motion before the Court to enforce the agreement or order if the other party refuses.
  4. Be Reasonable and Flexible
    • If the non-traveling parent advises you that her sister’s wedding is the same weekend that you wanted to travel with the children, try to reschedule so that the children can have the benefit of both events with each parent and their Aunt. Keep your children first and foremost in your mind.
    • Don’t schedule during the other parent’s time or important dates if possible (like the other parent’s birthday).
  5. Give Full Information and Provide a Tentative Schedule
    • Give a complete itinerary. Provide all of the information that you would want to know even if it isn’t required. You should provide the information in writing (e-mail is fine). This will provide proof if ever needed.
      • Where are you going?
        • Disney, hiking, biking, horse back riding, camping, boating or hanging out at the beach?
      • When are you leaving?
      • When will you return?
      • How are you getting there?
        • Train, airplane or car?
        • Which airline or train carrier?
        • Flight or train number?
        • Provide flight schedule
      • Where are you staying?
        • With friends/family? At a hotel? At an AirBnB or other rental home?
        • Provide the address and telephone number
      • Who are you traveling with?
        • Family? Friends? Name and relationship of the people traveling with as well. If you have a positive relationship with the no as (possibly) their contact information in case of emergency. Do not surprise your children or the non-traveling parent with a vacation with your new significant other.
    • Feel Free to Redact Any Cost Information
  1. Do Not Tell the Children First
    • Inform the non-traveling parent and wait to tell the children about the trip until after you have given the other parent a reasonable time to respond
  2. Get Paperwork Early
    • Do the children need a passport? What about a visa?
    • Normally, the other parent will need to sign the appropriate paperwork to obtain a kid’s passport. If they do not sign, you will need sufficient time to file a Motion with the Court to force the other parent to sign the paperwork or have the Court allow the travel.
  3. Schedule Communication with the Non-Traveling Parent
    • This does not have to be a specific time, but can be flexible depending on what works best for your family. Call in the morning before breakfast if you are early risers. Call in the evening after dinner if you are night owls. It would be even better if you used Skype or Facetime so, your children could have face-to-face communication with their parent. If you are traveling internationally and there is a time difference, keep that in mind and try to work out scheduled times to speak.

Below is an example:

Dear Co-Parent,

As you may remember, I have a week’s vacation with our children planned for the week of July 9. Below is the information about our plans. I have also attached our flight and hotel confirmations.

On Sunday, July 9, 2017, the children and I will leave at approximately 7am from my home. We have airline reservations (see attached) to fly to Orlando, FL. Airline & Flight #. We will arrive around 11am. We are staying for 3 nights at the Dolphin Resort at Disney. Address & Telephone number. On Wednesday, we will leave the Dolphin Resort and drive to Miami, FL. We will be staying at the Royal Palm in South Beach Miami. Address & Telephone number. On Sunday, July 16, 2017, we will fly home to Dulles (see attached) and arrive at approximately 6pm. Airline & Flight #. After retrieving our luggage, getting a quick dinner and driving, I expect that the children will arrive at your home around 8pm. The children will give you a call when we land and when we are on our way to your house.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns. As always, I will have the children contact you daily in the evenings via Skype or Facetime. I will have my cell phone with me (###-###-####).



Finally, you are not obligated (unless your Virginia Separation Agreement/Order says so) to provide the non-traveling spouse with this complete information; however, acting in good faith and fairly may create a spirit of cooperation that will last far into your children’s future. You and your ex are going to be sharing custody for many years to come so you want to be as cooperative with each other as possible.  Read more about how we have helped our clients here.

Contact one of our Virginia divorce lawyers in our Fairfax or Manassas offices to discuss more about the various aspects to consider when developing a custody schedule or agreement for your children.