How Should I Handle Summer Break if I have a Child Custody Agreement?

As summer approaches, divorced parents may have questions about how to navigate child custody and vacation time. Some parenting plans are more unclear than others, often leaving co-parents confused about where children will spend summer days.

Many divorced couples make plans for summer parenting schedules in their parenting plan and custody agreements. However, as children grow and their needs change, parents may need to revise summer schedules. For example, the young child who once needed full-time child care is now more independent and needs less supervision as a teenager. The summer parenting plan for day care looks much different than one for the older child who has a summer job and spends more time with friends.

The first step to creating a summer parenting schedule is to figure out the exact dates of summer break, from the day school lets out until the new year begins. That establishes the block of time to be organized using a few different methods. Listed below are some tips to help divorced parents avoid stressful disputes during summer.

Alternate Weekends

With this schedule, the child resides with one parent all week and visits the other parent every other weekend. The time can be extended from Friday to Tuesday to give the other parent more time. This schedule works for children who prefer the consistency of one home during the week and a more routine schedule.

It does give the other parent much less time with the child, so it ideal if the other parent lives at a distance, works a lot, or travels a lot. Another negative is that it may keep the child from attending weekend activities close to home on those weekends they are with the other parent.

One Parent Gets a Month or More

Some children spend anywhere from a month up to their entire summer break with the other parent. This usually happens with the other parent lives at a great distance out of state, or even out of the country, and misses out on parenting time during the school year.

It offers children uninterrupted time with their other parent. At the same time, the parent with primary custody must go long periods of time without seeing the child. If the parents are on good terms, a mid-summer visit with the custodial parent may be possible. At lot depends on the relationship between co-parents and the terms of their custody agreement.

Alternative Residential Schedules

This is not a single schedule, but a general revision of the primary residential schedule that is in place during the school year. Since the child does not have to attend school, there is more leeway to create a custom schedule that meets everyone’s needs. The child can live with one parent during the week and spend the weekend with the other, alternating the following week. This gives parents equal time with the child, and it allows parents to enjoy weekdays and weekends with the children. This is best for older children who do not attend child care near their primary residence.

Alternating every two weeks is another option to consider. This means the child lives full-time with one parent for two weeks and then the other parent for the next two weeks for the duration of the summer. This reduces custody exchanges, giving children a chance to spend quality time with each parent. It also includes plenty of time for vacations.

Plan Ahead

It is always a good idea to be proactive about creating a summer parenting plan. Start planning as early as September to allow plenty of time to negotiate the schedule, plan vacations, and make any changes before the last day of school.

Never assume the other parent is going to agree with summer activities and vacations. Co-parents who have a great relationship may feel a schedule is unnecessary, only to discover later that their ex-spouse is not on board with that last-minute camping trip. A summer schedule that has some flexibility is best.

Give Children a Voice

Children look forward to summer break all year. It is important to give children a voice in their summer plans. The summer activities and plans will change as children get older. Younger children require supervision and may need full-time child care in or out of the home. Teenagers tend to spend more time with their friends and want a bit more freedom to make their own plans.

Before making the final summer parenting schedule, sit down with the child and ask them what they want from their summer. Ultimately, parents have the final say, but it is always important to take the child’s wishes into account.

Be Open to Compromise

While it is important to have a summer parenting plan in place, it is also beneficial for everyone to approach summer break with an open mind. If the child is having a great weekend at the ex-spouse’s house, consider letting them spend another day there, even if it deviates from the parenting plan. Parents should always look at the overall picture. Children always benefit when their parents work together.

Tap into Technology to Organize Summer Schedules

Nowadays, parents are fortunate to have many different tools at their disposal to create, manage, and revise parenting schedules. Popular co-parenting apps allow parents to communicate electronically to save time and eliminate the need for phone calls and meetings. Always share any wishes or concerns about a summer parenting schedule with a trusted a lawyer to ensure the final plan is in the child’s best interests.

How Should I Plan a Vacation?

For some families, it is easier to stick to the regular parenting schedule and block out time for each parent to take the child on vacation. Parents who co-parent peacefully, enjoy their current custody plan, and live near each other tend to benefit from this arrangement.

Parents can either schedule specific days of the year to take a vacation with the children or have unspecified vacations, meaning that each parent has a certain number of days allotted for vacation time. They can take it after giving the other parent advanced notice. Generally, a 30-day notice is required and both parents are granted equal vacation time.

When planning summer adventures, co-parents need to set ground rules for planning vacations. Decide where and when it is acceptable to travel. One parent may not feel it is safe to take the child out of the country, for example. Parents should also agree on activities and require permission from the other parent before the child can participate.

One parent may be up for their child to try skydiving or whitewater rafting, while the other may be more hesitant. Both parents should be on the same page. Some parenting plans also require parents to provide a detailed vacation itinerary to the other parent. Knowing exactly what their child is up to on vacation helps to reassure the parent staying at home. If a parent needs to make modifications to an existing child custody plan, they may have legal options.

Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Avoid Conflict with Successful Summer Parenting Plans

Summer break should not be stressful for children. A Somerville child custody lawyer at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help you create a fair and effective summer parenting schedule. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.