Should Divorced Parents Take Their Children on Joint Vacations?

After your divorce you may envision going separate ways and never dealing with your ex again. Unfortunately, when you have children, that’s not the reality. Co-parenting requires interaction with your former spouse. How often and for how long you communicate with them depends on your custody situation and relationship.

Because active co-parenting provides stability and reassurance to children, it is becoming increasingly common for divorced parents to spend time together. Sometimes, that means shared birthday parties, sharing space on the sidelines of a soccer game, or celebrating holidays together. It is even becoming common for divorced parents to vacation together to provide a true family vacation for their children.

Is this a good idea? Should divorced parents take their children on joint vacations? Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether going on vacation as a divorced family is a good idea:

Will it Give Your Child False Hope?

It’s not uncommon for children to be in denial about their parents’ divorce. They may feel this is just a phase and believe that mommy and daddy will change their minds. If your child is in that denial stage, vacationing together as one big, mostly happy family may feed into their belief that the divorce isn’t real and lasting. If you believe that’s the case with your child, it may be best to skip the joint vacation, at least until they’ve accepted their new reality.

Will it Cause Fights?

Planning a vacation can be stressful even for people in healthy, thriving relationships. If you’ve been through a contentious divorce or there are thorny issues between you and your ex, deciding on a hotel or an itinerary might be an almost impossible challenge. And that’s before you even show up at the airport. During the trip, you’ll need to decide how late to stay out, where to eat, how much freedom to give your children, and many other things. These can lead to difficult parenting decisions and highlight differences in how you and your ex view parenting. And that can lead to fights.

The idea of a joint vacation is to give your child a great experience and show them that even though their parents are divorced, everyone can still share happy family experiences. If you will be fighting more than making your child smile, skipping the shared trip is best.

Will Money Differences be Highlighted?

While divorce judges in Utah try to make equitable decisions, the end of a marriage often leaves the spouses in different financial situations. Or maybe you and your ex view money differently and have differing spending priorities. Either way, money can be a source of tension. If you feel that planning the vacation or paying for expenses during the trip will increase financial tensions, think carefully about committing to a shared trip and the shared costs that go along with it.

If you decide to proceed with a family vacation, be very clear ahead of time about how you and your ex will split costs and make spending decisions.

How Will You Handle the Deviation from Your Usual Custody Plan?

Unless your parenting plan covers joint vacations, this time together will put a wrinkle in your shared custody. If the trip happens during time you would typically have had with your child, will the usual plan continue as though the joint trip didn’t happen? If you wouldn’t have been with your child during that time, will this count as your visitation, or will you still get time with your child after the trip?

This issue can be incredibly complicated, so ensure you address visitation details before agreeing to the shared vacation. If necessary, consult with your attorney for child custody to see if there are any pitfalls you need to avoid or to draft an agreement on how the shared trip will change parenting time before and after the vacation.

Will Other Family Members be Involved?

Consider who will be involved in the trip and how that will affect the dynamics. If your family spent a week at your family cabin every summer, it might be nice to continue that tradition and offer your child that continuity after the divorce. However, if your ex’s family is the one with the cabin, will dynamics with their family come into play? If the cabin trip usually involved your ex’s parents or their siblings, how will you feel about spending time with them? If it is your family’s tradition, how will your family members interact with your former spouse? Will that be a source of tension? Think through these dynamics if you are contemplating a joint family vacation.

Sharing vacations can become even more complicated as your and your ex’s lives move on. Will their new spouse be invited? What about their stepchildren or your child’s half-siblings from a new marriage? Be realistic about how much these things might bother you or your ex. For some former couples, vacationing as one big blended family works well. For others, it’s a minefield of resentment and hurt feelings, best avoided.

What’s Best For Everyone?

Shared vacations can be a source of joy and beautiful memories for children of divorce. They can also be a stressful nightmare for everyone involved. Think through all of the implications and have frank conversations with your ex. Hash out as many details as possible beforehand to avoid nasty surprises or resentments that boil over during the trip. If you have any doubts or concerns about how vacationing together might affect visitation schedules, expense splitting, or any other legal element of your divorce, talk with a family law specialist before finalizing any plans.

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