Although parents and children alike look forward to the fun and relaxation summer brings, the longer days bring challenges for sharing custody. It may seem counter intuitive, but the best way to ensure a carefree summer is flexible planning for custody from both parents before the season arrives. With the end of the school year just over a month away, now is the time to start thinking about revising custody arrangements for summer months.
What does the custody agreement say?
Generally divorced parents have detailed visitation plans outlining the dates and times the child will spend time with each parent. During the school year when the child has regularly scheduled activities and homework responsibilities, a regimented schedule makes sense. But during the summer months when the routine slows down, parents may wish to change the schedule to allow for more flexibility and time with the child.
Before making plans, review your custody agreement. The current order may list out a previously agreed upon summer schedule. However, it is not uncommon for courts to gloss over summer schedules, giving parents the freedom to make arrangements that suit both parties.
Communicate early and plan ahead
Planning vacation dates and other get-togethers as early as possible and then communicating those plans to the other parent helps avoid conflict. Make sure to put the needs of your child first when structuring summer plans. A younger child may not wish to be away from their normal home for more than a few weeks and an older child may have prior commitments, such as summer employment or camp. The schedule involves your child so ask your child for input.
When coordinating vacations be respectful of the other parent’s visitation time, especially if the dates you’d like overlap with time allotted to the other parent. To have the child during the time frame you have in mind, you may need to sacrifice time elsewhere to reach a compromise.
If your summer vacation plans involve travel, you will need the permission of the other parent. It’s best to get permission in writing and keep it with your travel documents. If your custody agreement limits travel, it is possible to petition for a court order giving you special permission to travel with the child. Before granting the order, a judge will likely ask for a detailed itinerary and your plan for the child to contact with the other parent while abroad.
Even parents with an ideal coparenting relationship benefit from planning a summer visitation schedule instead of just winging it. This summer, focus on making great memories with your child instead of fighting over visitation time.