Now that summer break is here, you may be worrying about your children’s alternative summer schedule and what it means for your access arrangements. If you are separated or divorced, you may be concerned about coordinating different visitation schedules, planning summer trips, and ensuring that the children get enough time with each parent.
Sometimes, one or both parents will have anxiety about juggling modified summer schedules. However, there is no reason to fret. Approaching the summer visitation schedule in a logical and reasonable manner will make the process easier on you, your ex-spouse, and your children.
Often, custody and access orders will specify special summer arrangements. It is possible that your co-parenting plan already deals with summer schedules. However, the parenting plan may also call for the coordination of summer schedules at a later date.
Each summer brings potential changes, including vacations or visits from relatives, camp and other summer programs, and different parental schedules. It is important to sit down and plan out when you would like time with the children and if there are any special events you would like your children to attend with you.
Once you have given some thought to your schedule preferences, it is important to sit down with your ex-spouse or ex-partner and attempt to work out a schedule. In contentious cases, this process may require the involvement of lawyers. Keep in mind that if your co-parenting plan states that the children should be with each parent 50% of the time, it is unreasonable to seek out a much larger chunk of time. Moreover, things like long weekends and weeks when the children are not attending camp, for example, should be split between parents in a shared parenting regime. It is important that the schedule remain consistent with what was set out in the parenting plan.
Throughout the process, ongoing communication with your ex-spouse is imperative. You may be thinking “this was the biggest problem when we were married”, but if you can work together, you can develop more nuanced solutions than if the schedule is imposed on you by a court. If there is a specific week or weekend you would like with the children, tell your ex-spouse as soon as possible and be prepared to sacrifice one of your weekends/weeks so that you can both have a more extended vacation with the children.
When you do create a summer schedule, it should be detailed and clear, as to ensure the smallest amount of uncertainty and conflict. The plan should include who will do pick up and drop off, and the time changeovers are to occur. Once the schedule has been finalized, the children should be made aware of the schedule. Older children should obviously have some input into their schedule and should be included in earlier stages of the process. However, it is important that children are not put in the middle or made to choose between parents.
Finally, if your co-parenting arrangement does not include provisions for cost sharing, it will be important to discuss the costs of children’s summer activities or other unforeseen joint expenses. When the summer parenting plan is finalized, the schedule should be put up onto a shared calendar at each parents’ home so that you, your ex-spouse and your children may look up the schedule any time. A joint online calendar, that costs about $100 per year per parent, is www.OurFamilyWizard.com
If disagreements occur in the making of the summer visitation schedule, it is important that, as always, you and your ex-spouse not speak negatively about one another in the presence of your children. Children should not be used as pawns to relay messages between ex-spouses.