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Avoiding vacation custody wars with ex-spouses

Summer is a season of teeth-gritting tension for some divorced parents in New York. Creating a stress-free child vacation schedule that satisfies everyone isn't always easy. Sometimes conflicts in parents' vacation schedules, destinations and child custody arrangements lead to arguments with exes and even a trip in front of the judge to settle the dispute.

Divorce experts say summer custody wars are not to be won or lost, but compromised. Summer is probably the longest free time kids have to spend with parents during the year. It's natural that parents want to be with children as much as possible. Custody disputes happen when former spouses don't share vacation intentions.

Advisors recommend a face-to-face meeting with an ex-spouse to talk about summer schedules, preferably long before hotel rooms, cruises and airline tickets are booked. Talking it out with an ex isn't always possible. Contention between exes is not uncommon.

Advanced planning and sharing are the keys to healthy ex-spousal vacation communication and conflict avoidance. Not every summer getaway works out exactly as planned, which means more openness when schedules go awry. Notify a former spouse of unavoidable schedule changes or be ready for a possible trip to court.

Parents need to know when and where kids are going to be on vacation. Refusing to share information can drive an ex to legal action, especially if a trip entails taking children out of the country.

When milder communication methods fail, a mediator can be a valuable third-party in vacation negotiations. Many former spouses can only engage in flammable conversation. The fire-extinguishing properties of a mediator or diplomatic custody attorney can be worth the cost.

Divorce settlements usually outline the time each parent spends with children. Agreements also include a lead time -- the amount of notice one parent must give another before a vacation takes place.

Some parenting plans and divorce agreements lack finer details, like where parents can travel with children and age-appropriate travel destinations. If a parent feels those issues are important, a court-ordered vacation schedule may be the answer.

Source:, "Summer Vacation And Child Custody Agreements," Liz Mandarano, July 20, 2012

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