Planning vacations over the summer school break can create issues for divorced parents. Even though each parent might want to take their child on summer vacation, doing so could impact the other parent’s regular visitation time. These conflicts can escalate quickly and create massive legal headaches for parents who don’t make plans in advance.
Which Parent Has Custody Over Summer Break?
The court-approved custody agreement establishes legal and physical custody of the children from the marriage. When the court grants a parent legal custody, that parent can make key decisions for a child. When the court grants physical custody to a parent, that parent provides the child’s primary residence. Virginia’s laws prohibit the courts from assuming that any custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest, and they must determine each situation on the merits of that particular case.
If both parents have legal custody, they likely are able to spend time with the child over the summer. The custody agreement should outline summer arrangements if they differ from those established for the rest of the school year. The amount of time each parent gets with the child will depend on each parent’s work schedule, the details of the custody arrangement (for example, one parent might only see the child on weekends), how well the parents get along, and other factors. It’s better to work out the details of summer vacation far in advance so each parent can make appropriate arrangements.
If a parent has sole physical and legal custody of a child, however, they might not have an obligation to let the child spend any time outside of regular visitation with the other parent over the summer.
Can Divorced Parents Take a Child on an Out-of-State Vacation?
Unless your custody agreement forbids it, yes, you can take your kids on an out-of-state vacation. Consider these factors before you take your child out of state.
First, make sure you’re following the terms of your custody order and any parenting agreements you’ve signed with your former spouse. As long as you’re not breaking the terms of these documents, you can take your child where you want in the United States.
Second, talk to your former spouse long before any out-of-state vacations and get their permission. You might not have to do this from a legal perspective, but it’s a good way to avoid conflicts with your ex-spouse.
The situation is slightly different if you do not share legal custody with your former spouse. A spouse who does not have legal custody of their children but has visitation rights should always seek permission from the custodial spouse before taking the children out of the state or on an extended vacation.
What If the Other Parent Takes a Child on Vacation and Never Comes Back?
Just as you should check with the other parent before you take your children on vacation, the other parent should check with you. If your co-parenting is amicable, you should not have to worry about whether the other parent will take your kids out of state and refuse to bring them back.
However, if that should happen, the other parent would be violating the custody agreement, and the court could hold them in contempt. A warrant could be issued for their arrest.
Do You Have Questions About Child Custody in Virginia? Our Firm Can Help
Summer break and vacations present special challenges to divorced parents, and the laws that apply to your situation can be confusing. The Virginia Beach family law attorneys at Invictus Law are happy to answer any legal questions and protect your custody and visitation rights. Call us today at 757-317-5125 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.