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Summer Vacations as a Divorced Parent

With 2022 being the first summer in a while where things feel “normal,” there’s an increase in travel and vacationing this summer. For divorced parents, that can create an interest in taking children on family vacations, which brings up the issue of whether or not both parents should travel and vacation together as a family. While it sounds like a good, logical ideal for those who are co-parenting to be mutually involved in vacation plans, there can be many issues to navigate.

In this month’s blog post, we’re going to look at some of the key things to consider when determining whether or not vacationing as a family is a good choice for you, your ex, or your kids.

Going on Vacation as a Family After a Divorce

First off, this is only relevant if you and your former spouse are on speaking terms and co-parenting has, thus far, gone fairly well. If you are not, or the relationship is still largely hostile, you absolutely should NOT be traveling or vacationing together.

Assuming, however, that you have a predominantly amicable relationship with your ex, there can be a lot of consternation about whether or not to invite your spouse for a vacation with the kids. As always, there is no single “right” answer to this type of question. Every family’s circumstances are different, and what works for one set of former spouses might not work for another. As you think about your options, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

1. Going on Vacation Can Be More Intense

While you and your ex may get along pretty well in short doses, vacation can be a totally different environment. When you go on vacation, you and your former spouse will likely be spending a lot of time together—much more than you would under your normal co-parenting schedule. In order to make the vacation work for everyone, and your children in particular, it will be necessary for you and your former spouse to get along the entire time.

On top of that, be wary of the impact your former spouse’s habits and personality might have on your relationship. Will the amount of time you spend together during vacation bring up some of the issues that led to the end of your marriage in the first place? After all, there was a reason that you agreed it was in your best interest to end your relationship. Spending more time around someone, and in close proximity, tends to highlight the parts of their personality or characteristics that they put aside during shorter visits.

2. Avoid Mixed Signals

Divorce can be difficult for all parties, but can lead to some very strong feelings for the children. For children, going on vacation as a family after a divorce has the potential to send mixed signals.

It can also make them feel like they are not the center of your world at a time when they themselves are struggling with your divorce. If you decide to go, it will be important to make sure your children fully understand your family’s circumstances so that they are not left confused and feeling even more alone.

3. Don’t Give False Hope

Going on vacation as a family can also give children false hope that their parents might get back together. In order to avoid this issue (or at least mitigate it to the extent possible), parents should talk with their children before going on their trip to make sure they understand that while their parents love them, they do not love each other.  As parents, your feelings have changed for the other parent but not for the children.

Additionally, will going on a vacation with your ex give one or both of you false hope that a reunion is possible? As humans, we tend to fantasize about an idyllic life when we’re on vacation, and we also tend to relax and let out guard down a bit. Combine that with another vacation go-to — alcohol — and a lot of shared history, and it’s entirely possible that someone might start imagining a different path forward. This could end well, of course, but it’s much more likely to only create false hope and, inevitably, more pain and hard feelings when it doesn’t pan out.

4. Address Parenting Time

Unless you and your spouse built joint vacations into your parenting plan, your vacation will represent a deviation from your standard schedule. As a result, when you plan your vacation, you will need to make sure that you and your spouse are in agreement over how to account for the shared time. You’ll also want to be very clear with your children about how this shared time will impact where they go and who they stay with in the days or weeks after.

5. Figure Out Who’s Paying

Money is a common source of conflict for spouses and ex-spouses alike. Have you and your spouse gotten into disagreements over money in the past? Could the outcome of your divorce have had an impact on your former spouse’s disposable income? Here too, planning ahead will be important to mitigating the risk of any potential undesirable consequences of a post-divorce family vacation.

Contact the Gilbert Law Office

Matt Gilbert of the Gilbert Law Office is a family law firm that represents parents before, during, and after the divorce process. If you are contemplating a divorce or a post-divorce family vacation, or if you simply have questions about your family situation, you can call (210) 319-5576 or contact us online to request a confidential initial case evaluation.