Most people enjoy travel and the opportunity for overseas travel is for many an extra exciting experience. Travelling with children can be challenging but the thrill of sharing new adventures, culture, cuisine, meeting old friends and introducing family can enrich your children’s lives and development.
Whilst it can be exciting for those travelling the parent left behind can have some concerns and may be anxious as to whether their children will be safe while away and return home at the end of the holiday.
Plan in advance
It is always a good idea to discuss travel plans well in advance of confirming any arrangements, so both parents understand each other’s perspectives and can discuss any concerns that they have. Booking tickets without discussion can set up parents and children for disappointment.
Where are you going
Some parents will have concerns about a particular travel destination. It may be that it is unsafe due to unrest, there may be limited access to emergency and medical services or it may not be a signatory to the Hague Convention, see below. You may want to discuss with the other parent and agree on what destinations are not suitable for your children to travel to. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides regular updates about the safety status of all international destinations. https://www.dfat.gov.au
How long are you travelling for
Some parents are quite happy for their children to travel but they do not want their children to be overseas for extended periods of time. Be clear with each other about what the intentions are about this. Are you both happy for your children to miss some school if you feel the benefit of travel outweighs school attendance? For younger children this might be reasonable, but do you or will you feel the same about this as your children progress through high school?
There may be some associated health risks with travel to certain destinations. Some countries have not managed to eradicate diseases as we have in Australia and mosquito borne disease is still prevalent in many places across the globe. Should your children be vaccinated to reduce the risk? Do you want them vaccinated? Are they even able to be vaccinated? These are factors that you need to discuss as parents before travel is arranged.
Sharing information about travel
It can help both parents if you keep each other up to date about travel itineraries, accommodation information and contact details whilst your children are overseas. The staying home parent and your children may want to have regular contact with each other to share their experiences and to feel close whilst apart. To make everyone feel comfortable about travel and where practical, it can help to continue with the same communication patterns that you have whilst you are at home.
The Hague Convention
Australia and many other countries are signatories to the Hague Convention. If a country is a signatory it means that if your children are taken to one of these countries and are not returned, the Australian government and the government where your children have been taken to will work together to have your children returned home. When children travel to countries which are not signatories to this convention, it may be very difficult to have your children returned to Australia if the other parent will not bring them back. This should not necessarily mean children should not travel to these destinations but you may want to give this matter additional consideration. https://www.ag.gov.au/families-and-marriage
Trust in your co-parenting relationship
Overseas travel can be a very sensitive topic. It can be very important for one parent or both especially when family is overseas that the relationship between their children and their extended family is maintained and developed. Some parents have a strong desire for their children to be immersed in and to experience their heritage and culture.
Children have rights to have access to this as well. It is important that both parents are respectful about their children’s cultural backgrounds and are encouraging of these experiences where it is safe for their children to be involved. Again it will help if you are in a strong co-parenting relationship and that both parents trust each other to keep their children safe and out of unnecessary danger.
Security in consent and court orders
Some parents may have legitimate concerns about their children travelling overseas. Perhaps there has been a bad experience where children have not come home at the agreed time or that their children may have been put at unnecessary risk. Consent or court orders can be put in place that prevent a parent from taking a child/ren out of the country, or detail how long children can be away for and where they can and cannot travel to. This may give some parents some peace of mind. If there is real concern that children may be taken out of the country and not be returned, parents should seek legal advice about airport watchlists or passports being held by a 3rd party.
Decisions about your children travelling, particularly overseas travel is considered a major decision about a child’s welfare. Parents should not be making these decisions or even considering this type of travel with out discussing it with the other parent first and both parents should be in agreement about arrangements.
If you or someone you know finds themselves in conflict with their ex about travel arrangements for children and/or you would like to know more about family mediation, please contact Latoya Percival or Anna Oxford at Experienced Mediators