Charles Ahlstrom, Esq.
Sentinel Law Group

As a family law attorney, each day holds new and unique situations as clients bring their life circumstances to me. Over the next several articles, I will be featuring some common questions that I have answered throughout the years of my career.This is the second one.

Q: I want to be able to take my children on a trip out of state, but my ex says no. Does my ex have the ability to control my vacation? Do I have any rights?

A: This can be a trickier question to answer because you have to refer to your decree most of the time to get a clear answer. You probably want to ask an attorney your specific question with a copy of your decree in hand. However, let me give you some more general suggestions and guidance for this situation.

Utah Code Annotated § 30-3-36(2) stipulates that you are to provide certain information when your children are traveling with you. This is done primarily so the other parent knows how to reach you and/or the children in the event of an emergency. It is also courteous to share this information, regardless of the statute. The law requires you to provide (1) an itinerary of your travel (when you are going, where you are going to be, and when you will be returning); (2) your destination(s); (3) places where the children or the traveling parent can be contacted (i.e., hotels, family members, cellphone, etc.); and (4) an available third person who would know the children’s location (like a close adult friend or family member). As long as you are providing that information, there is little that the ex can do to legally stop the trip.

However, I have seen it happen where the non-traveling parent will get the children for parent time and then not cooperate with the exchange, which then causes problems because of departure times and other logistical issues. My advice is to plan any trip with a buffer, especially if the possibility of friction is present.

By making the exchange a few days before you are scheduled to leave, you can ensure that the ex cannot cause any problems that create extra trouble because of timing. So, if you are flying out on a Saturday, arrange for the pickup to be on Thursday evening. That allows you time to get everything packed and ready and gives you a day to talk with a judge if any interference comes up. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but if you feel like the ex might be jealous because of your planned activities, or might not like where you are going, or feels insecure in their own relationship with the children, it is a good idea to allow this buffer before going. It all goes back to the principle of controlling what you can; we cannot control ex-spouses. But we certainly can be careful and plan around any possible things that could go wrong.

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