Frequently I am asked by parents whether or not they need to disclose where they are going for vacation to the other parent. In Arizona, most divorce decrees include a provision that requires a traveling parent to disclose an itinerary if he/she is traveling more than 100 miles or out of state. Some decrees will require more specific information such as the mode of travel (including flight numbers), destination, contact numbers and dates of travel. The decree is an order of the Court, all parties must comply with the terms of the decree. However, not all decrees expressly state the minimum amount of information that must be provided, which allows a parent to provide as little or as much information as he/she feels necessary. However, this may or may not be sufficient from the non-traveling parent’s perspective and lead to conflict. Often a traveling parent feels that disclosure of this information is invasive or an attempt to control/monitor the traveling parent, which may or may not be accurate. Parents that are involved in a high conflict co-parenting relationship are more likely to have disputes over these type of issues because of the lack of relationship foundation necessary to effectively co-parent. Hence the requirement to provide this information will seem controlling.
I normally recommend the traveling parent try and consider it from the perspective of protecting the child. One example is what information would be provided if the child were traveling with their school. The school will normally provide basic information as outlined above (mode of transportation, destination, departure time and time for return and contact information), which parents appreciate. Some parents state that while this is true, the school representatives are strangers not the parent. I agree with this, but in the event of an emergency, shouldn’t the non-traveling parent know the same information? For example, if a parent is flying, and while statistically unlikely, there is a plane crash; the non-traveling parent should be able to know whether or not his/her children were on that plane.
Similarly, with the lava crisis in Hawaii recently, shouldn’t a parent know whether or not their child is on the Big Island or Honolulu? If there is an emergency, the non-traveling parent should be able to reach the other parent to exchange information and know whether or not there is a present risk to the children. Normally, nothing happens except a good time, but what if this time is the exception. Exchanging the information and having open communications will help eliminate problems if some emergency does occur.
Overall, my advice to clients is to provide as much detailed information as possible and consider it a safety net rather than an attempt to control. Engaging in a fight with the other parent before a vacation will not only add a cloud to the vacation but also may negatively taint the vacation memories for the children. Improved co-parenting relationships will improve the quality of the parent’s lives and it drastically improves the life of the children.