Summer is nearly here, and that means kids will soon be out of school and families may be gearing up for vacations.

As exciting or relaxing as you hope an upcoming trip will be, it can become the source of bitter disputes if you share custody of the children with whom you are traveling. In some cases, a vacation can spark contentious legal battles that threaten custody arrangements and parenting rights. With that in mind, there are some important steps you should take before a trip with your children that can help you avoid potential arguments.

  1. Gather and pack important documentation. Whether you are leaving the state or leaving the country, be sure you have documentation that shows you can travel with your children. Bring a copy of your parenting agreement as well as written permission from the courts or the other parent, if you have it. Depending on where you are going, you might also need to bring a birth certificate and/or passport for your child.
  2. Go over your schedule with the other parent well in advance. Springing a trip with the children on the other parent is not wise. It can make the other parent feel scared, distrustful and defensive. As such, you should tell him or her about a vacation as soon as possible. This is especially crucial if the trip affects the regular custody schedule. Discussing the trip in advance gives you time and opportunity to make changes, if necessary. It also
  3. Think about communication. Your kids may want to communicate with their other parent more (or less) than usual when you are on vacation, especially if you are traveling for a long time. Keep this in mind and consider easing any restrictions you have regarding communication so that your kids feel comfortable calling or not calling the other parent.

Traveling with children already can be stressful; adding in custody and legal complications only makes it that much more difficult. To avoid this and to make your vacation more peaceful, plan ahead and make sure you clear up any child custody issues before you leave. Taking these steps can help you – and your kids – have a better experience.