As we approach the holidays, many divorced parents may be planning to travel with their children to visit family or take a vacation. Before you make any plans, particularly if they involve traveling outside Michigan or across the border into Canada, it’s crucial to make sure that you have any required permission from your co-parent. If you’re sharing custody, your custody order likely specifies how far each of you can travel with the kids without needing co-parent consent.
Of course, even if it’s not required, it’s important to make sure your co-parent is informed about your plans. Keep a record of any notifications or communication between you — including texts, emails or communication through a co-parenting app.
What to include in a consent letter
If your travel requires co-parent consent, you can draw up a consent letter for them to sign. This should include information like:
- Where you will be traveling and staying
- How long you will be away
- Contact information needed to reach you
- Who will be traveling with you, if anyone
It’s wise to provide an itinerary – particularly if you’ll be traveling to more than one place. You may also want to detail how often and how the kids will be in touch with their co-parent.
Documentation to bring with you
Bring a copy of the signed travel consent letter and/or your custody order detailing your right to travel with your children along on your trip just as a precaution. This is especially important if your children have a different last name than yours.
Bring copies of your kids’ birth certificates as well. If you’re traveling to Canada, you’ll need those to get into the country (unless you have passports).
What if your co-parent refuses?
If your co-parent refuses to provide the required consent, get this ironed out. If you’re planning to take them during your parenting time, find out what your co-parent’s concerns are. You may just need to provide more detail about your plans or assure them of more communication.
You may have to take the matter to court as a last resort. Never consider violating the custody order regarding travel, even if it’s on “your” time. Under Michigan law, that’s considered “unlawfully taking or retaining a child.”
If you have questions or issues regarding planned travel with your kids or with preparing a travel consent letter, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.