You’ve been married and have since gone your separate ways. You have children with your former spouse and navigating the complexities of that situation have been tough. But now you’ve got a new significant other and the relationship is getting pretty serious. You’d like to take your kids and your new romantic partner on a family vacation. Here is what you need to know and a few words of caution about traveling with your new partner, along with a plan to minimize future conflict with your ex-spouse.
The first thing you’ll want to do is review your parenting plan (if you have one). Parenting plans, once adopted by the Court, become an Order of the Court. You’ll want to be informed about what conditions are placed upon you and your ex-spouse for out-of-state and out-of-country travel. Look for the following requirements:
Also, check the language of the Parenting Plan to see if you and your ex-spouse included provisions regarding exposing your child(ren) to new love interests? Once you have reviewed what is required of your parenting plan, make sure you comply with its requirements! You don’t want to later have to answer to the Court for failing to abide by the terms of its Orders.
Once you have reviewed your Parenting Plan and figured out what is required of you, now you must consider some possible dangers associated with having your new romantic partner around your kids.
While all (or none) of these may apply to your situation, you should consider:
Your ex-spouse may try to involve various authorities — the police, department of human services, child protective services, etc. They may file complaints, make false reports, or seek welfare checks, alleging that your child is unsafe. If a government agent is dispatched to your location, they will conduct whatever investigation is necessary to satisfy their concerns. Absent any indication of danger to the child, they will likely be on their way.
Your ex-spouse may also attempt to get an attorney involved. The attorney may contact you, threatening to involve the Department of Human Services or the Police. The attorney may also allege that your actions are: a violation of an Order of the Court; not allowed under your parenting plan; and/or subject to contempt proceedings. Further, the attorney may try to apply pressure to you, in the hopes that it will cause you to cut your vacation early and prematurely return with your child(ren) from vacation.
In addition to directly contacting you, an attorney may file any number of various motions, including, but not limited to emergency motions to restrict parenting time; emergency motions to prevent the abduction, or emergency motions alleging endangerment to your child. If successful, any one of these may include an Order by the Court, allowing law enforcement to forcibly retrieve your child from your care, and return the child to your ex-spouse. As with any of these actions, if an attorney contacts you during your trip, we recommend you contact one of our attorneys immediately so that we may address the situation.
Courts obviously don’t treat emergency matters lightly — child abduction, endangerment, abuse and/or neglect are all very serious allegations. In the event that your ex-spouse (or their attorney) files any one of the aforementioned emergency motions, the Court will hear evidence to determine whether the allegations are credible. If the Court does find the allegations to be credible, the Court may issue a “writ of civil assistance” or “warrant to take physical custody”. If either of these is issued, the Court will direct Law Enforcement to come to your location, take your child(ren) into their custody, and return the child(ren) to your ex-spouse.
As with many things in life, there are ways to safeguard against potential hazards. Once you’ve reviewed your Parenting Plan and made sure that you have complied with its requirements, go the extra mile! Send an email to your ex-spouse that shows your trip details (where you will be staying, how you will be traveling, where you and the children may be reached), with whom you may be staying, and any planned destinations. Additionally, if you can get your ex-spouse to provide you with written consent, this can be very helpful! This document can be used to refute any allegations by your ex-spouse that you have improperly taken your child out of the state.
Additionally, should you be paid a visit by any authorities, you can produce this document to defend your credibility. It’s always wise to consult with an attorney, since if you’re unsure of anything — the terms of your parenting plan, your ex-spouse’s reactions, what rights you may have — it’s much easier to get information from a lawyer before it becomes a crisis! If you or someone you know has questions, take a few moments to pick up the phone and engage one of our attorneys for a free consultation.
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