Vacations and child custody in California: What you need to know

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2021 | Child custody and child support

As a parent who shares custody of their child, you may be restricted on where you can take your child on vacation. Whether you want to take your child to visit their grandparents in another state for Thanksgiving or are planning a spring break getaway, you need to take additional steps to ensure no conflict arises with the other parent.

If you negotiate and collaborate on an agreement during your child custody case, you both may have the freedom to travel where you choose. But in some instances, if you fail to come to an agreement or forget to include holiday or vacation time in your negotiations, you may need the court’s assistance in order to travel out of the state with your child.

Can you travel out of state when your child custody case is still pending?

If your California child custody case has not yet been resolved, you should never vacation outside of the state without written permission from the other parent. If possible, get the written permission notarized.

When the other parent refuses to give permission for you to travel with your child, it is possible to receive permission from the court. The court will consider what is best for the child in these circumstances. Is this a vacation you take every year that the child looks forward to? Are you going to visit family that the child is close with? Can the vacation wait until after your case is resolved? These are just some of the questions that the court will consider when granting the ability to travel out of state, especially when the other parent refuses to give permission.

Always seek written permission from the other parent

Many times, your child custody agreement or court order will outline holiday and vacation time for each parent and specify if and when parents are allowed to leave the state with their child. In some cases, you may be able to travel out-of-state or outside of the country without notifying the other parent, as long as your custody agreement allows it. Even in these situations, however, you should get written permission from the other parent if possible to avoid conflict in the future.

When these provisions are not part of your child custody arrangement, you will need written permission from the other parent to leave the state. In some cases an email or text is sufficient. To best protect yourself, make sure the other parent is specific about the timing, place of destination and other details of the trip when consenting.

When the other parent refuses to give permission, you can file a Request for Order with the court. You will again need to prove how the trip is in your child’s best interests. If you resort to these steps, you may want to take additional measures to amend your child custody arrangement to allow for future vacations and trips out of state.

Traveling out of the country vs. traveling out of the state

When traveling out of the country for a vacation, the same rules apply as traveling across state lines. If possible, get written permission from the other parent. If that is not possible, and your child custody arrangement does not allow you the flexibility to leave the state with your child to travel, you can seek permission from the court to leave.

Always be proactive when it comes to child custody and visitation

The best way to account for holiday and vacation travel is to incorporate it into your child custody arrangement – whether during your child custody case or through a modification after your case has been resolved.

By negotiating outside of court, you can come up with an agreement that works for both parents and the child. Examples might include:

  • Alternating holidays. You may decide that one parent receives custody during Christmas one year, while the other parent gets to spend Christmas with the child the next year. By setting up a schedule of alternating holidays, you can better plan for a future holiday vacation with your child.
  • Split up every break. If your child has a week off for spring break, you may choose to have the child spend half of that with one parent and half with the other. This generally works better for parents who live close to one another.
  • Assign holidays and breaks to each parent. If one parent has a tradition of spending Christmas at the grandparents’ house, it may be best for that child to spend every Christmas day with that parent. Meanwhile, the other parent may get custody during another holiday, such as Thanksgiving.
  • Include time for summer trips. By including provisions in your custody plan for vacations out-of-state during the summer months, you give each parent more freedom to get the most out of your child’s summer break.

Every family is different, and it is always important to consider what is best for your child in these situations. With the other parent’s permission, you can also always plan a vacation on the fly as well. To avoid conflict and ensure you follow all the rules of your custody plan, be sure to plan ahead before you choose to take your child out of California.