Once a petition for divorce is served and for the duration of the dissolution process, there are automatic restraining orders preventing either parent from removing their children from the State of California without a court order or written permission from the other parent. This includes previously-planned trips or vacations. If you are served while the children are in state, and the other parent refuses to sign an agreement, it may take a court order to have your children join you on vacation. If you decide to travel over the judge’s orders, you could be in big trouble. The other parent can seek an order requesting the children ordered back immediately, attorney’s fees for the costs associated, as well as a contempt order which could result in jail time.
Both parties will need to negotiate the terms of vacations, lengths, destinations, and how to contact to the other parent while away. Failure to come to a mutually-agreeable settlement can drive up the financial and emotional costs of the dissolution. Most often, fully negotiated and settled agreements state that without proper notice to the other parent, you cannot take the children out of the county, let alone the state or country, so adjust your expectations accordingly or find a way to compromise into an appropriate agreement.
Once the judge signs your divorce decree, you will have a fully-enforceable court order. It is important to ensure that you are comfortable abiding by those terms until your children are 18 or until you can convince your ex or a judge to change the order. As a study in 2004 found that fifty percent of Amber Alerts issued came from “family abductions”, it is clear the best path is to create a new relationship with your ex: one of mutual respect for the agreement reached and the laws of the State of California. This way, when you plan your next family trip, you can relax and fully enjoy the time spent with your children.