To Family Vacation Together or Not After a Divorce?

If you are recently divorced or in the process of getting divorced with kids, the thought may have crossed your mind of whether it makes sense to take a family vacation with your kids – and your ex-spouse – after the divorce has been finalized. There are certain upsides that come to mind: the kids may have an attachment to taking vacation with both parents, and perhaps even to a certain spot like a family lakehouse; you might not want to be 100% solely responsible for the kids the entire vacation, and may want to have someone else around to talk to besides just children; it might be difficult for you to afford on your own the type of vacation you think the kids would enjoy; or you might want the kids to be able to experience their original family unit as a whole for at least a week or two.

There is certainly nothing in the law that prevents you and your ex-spouse from taking a vacation together with the kids. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so. You’ve probably heard stories from family and friends about divorced couples who have done this, and celebrities ex-couples such as Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson have done so, even with new significant others added in the mix (and, of course, these are all celebrities with celebrity lifestyles and all that that entails).

So, yes, people have vacationed with their exes and kids and have lived to tell the tales, but there can be a number of downsides and other considerations to these types of post-divorce vacations as well. Before planning such a vacation, you might ask yourself and discuss with others the following:

  • Will the vacation confuse the children, who are already doing their best to adjust to a new normal after the divorce? Relatedly, will it give them false hope (which of course can be followed by disappointment, anger, and resentment) that you are all going to get back together as one big, happy family?
  • Taking it even further, will the vacation cause confusion and false hope for you – or your former spouse – about getting back together, potentially leading to awkward or worse situations during the vacation or after?
  • Similarly, as you are trying to build your new life, including new relationships, after your divorce, what might others in your life such as a new significant other feel about you being on vacation with your ex, and how will that affect your life going forward?
  • Will the reasons that led to you and your spouse deciding to get a divorce, and which may have faded in importance or emotional power since the divorce was finalized, rear their ugly heads during the vacation or afterwards and create a tense and decidedly unpleasant atmosphere that defeats the purpose of the vacation?
  • How will you share the costs of the vacation? And how will you treat the shared custody time for purposes of your custody schedule? (These may be simple enough to work out, but they are better worked out in advance before you announce it to the children.)

These are not necessarily insurmountable obstacles or ironclad prescriptions against taking a vacation with your ex, but they are questions to think long and hard about it before taking that plunge. In essence, you will want to think about the motivations for both you and your ex in wanting to vacation together, as well as thinking through what your children really want and need and potentially giving consideration to third parties while you’re at it.

Finally, while there is often a temptation for parents to want to keep old traditions alive for their children, understand that children don’t necessarily romanticize the earlier parts of their childhood in the way their parents do (nor are they necessarily as moved by the price tag and exoticness of a vacation so much as they are by the fun-factor), and can be far more excited about creating new traditions, especially if that means two separate vacations with each of their parents!

Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney

If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.