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“Can My Ex Take Our Kid on a Surprise Out-of-State Trip?” – Let’s Unpack This!


We were recently asked, “Can my ex take our child out of state without giving me a heads-up?” It’s a bit of a gray area, so let’s break it down with some insights from Modern Law.

The Scenario

A Surprise Trip to the Sand Dunes Picture this: You’ve got a three-year-old and a court-ordered schedule for Zoom calls with your kiddo. It’s Thanksgiving, and you’re all set for your video chat, only to find out your little one is vacationing in the Sand Dunes in California, not chilling at Dad’s place in Arizona. No prior heads-up, no text, nothing. And to top it off, Dad’s in a spot with dodgy cell service, messing up your Zoom time. Frustrating, right?

What Does the Law Say?

Here’s the deal : If your court order doesn’t specifically say that each parent needs to inform the other about out-of-state trips, then technically, Dad hasn’t broken any rules. There’s no general law or statute that mandates you have to tell the other parent about such trips, even if you share joint legal decision-making.

Is This Grounds for Modifying the Court Order?

Short answer: Not really. To modify a court order, you need a substantial change in circumstances, not just an “oops, we forgot to include this in the order” moment. So, while it might feel like a big deal (and understandably so), it’s not usually enough to warrant a legal change.

But What About Our Zoom Calls?

If your court order specifies daily Zoom calls and Dad’s trip interferes with that, it’s technically a violation. But don’t rush to court just yet. Contempt of court requires a willful violation, and if Dad tried to make the call happen but was thwarted by poor cell service, it’s more of an unfortunate hiccup than a contemptuous act.

What Do Other Parents Do?

Every family’s different, but many parents choose to include a notification requirement for out-of-state travel in their parenting plans. It’s not about asking for permission; it’s about keeping each other in the loop for the sake of your child’s well-being.

So, What’s the Takeaway?

Communication is key in co-parenting. Even if it’s not legally required, giving a heads-up about travel plans is just good co-parenting etiquette. It keeps everyone informed and helps maintain a sense of stability and trust for your child.

Managing successful co-parenting can feel like walking through a maze blindfolded sometimes. While the law might not always require detailed travel notifications, creating a parenting plan that includes these courtesies can make life smoother for everyone involved. And remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about what’s best for your little one. Keeping the lines of communication open and respectful goes a long way in making this co-parenting journey a bit easier for everyone.
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