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Parenting Plans: Vacations

Parents are sometimes surprised about how vacation provisions are drafted into Washington State parenting plans. The term “vacation” within the parenting plan can be a bit misleading. In reality, instead of drafting vacation time to be used exclusively for traveling (meaning reserved for use when one parent will actually be leaving town with the kids), many family law attorneys draft the parenting plan section titled “Vacation” to be for providing each (or if circumstances require, only one parent) uninterrupted time with the children. In essence, this uninterrupted time is a break from the usual rotation of the parenting plan. A parent’s uninterrupted time with the parent’s children can be a time to travel with children, plan uninterrupted activities spanning a week or more, or just spend lots of extra time together. The vacation schedule is an important part of the Washington State parenting plan, and it should be carefully considered.

The way most parenting plans are drafted, parents are free to decide what to do with their vacation time. They do not actually have to leave town to exercise their vacation time. Some parents choose to use the time to stay home with their kids. Other parents use it to travel out of the state or out of the country. 

Parenting plans provide for different amounts of vacation time to be taken in a variety of way. Some parenting plans give each parent one or two weeks of uninterrupted time. Some give up to six weeks or more. Some plans allow parents to take only a certain amount of the vacation time continuously (for example one or two weeks at time).  Oftentimes, when one or both parents have parents (the child’s grandparents) that live outside the country where long-term travel time will be required, the vacation time set forth in the parenting plan will be of a longer duration. Sometimes there are restrictions on when vacation time can be taken. For school age children, it is often limited to when the children are not in school.

Some plans require that all the vacation time be used at once. Other plans allow parents to divide their uninterrupted (aka vacation) time however they see fit. Usually there is some restriction as to when the parents must advise the other parent of their choice to exercise their vacation time. There is often also an accompanying priority list of which parent’s vacation time takes priority for which year. This can prevent the need for litigation if both parents hope to have their uninterrupted time at the same time.

Another issue around vacation is where it is placed on the priority schedule. Some parents choose to place the vacation schedule above the special occasions on the priority list. This distinction is important. If the vacation time is placed above the special occasion schedule, a parent can use their vacation time to usurp the other parent’s special occasion time.

If you would like to speak with a Seattle family law attorney about how your parenting plan is or will be drafted, please contact us today. We would be happy to speak with you about your options for vacation time with your kids and all of your other parenting plan issues.