How Do I Manage Summer Vacation as a Divorced Parent?
School is out for the summer, which means that routines are likely to change and the daily grind of homework, sports, music lessons and other activities becomes much more relaxed. However, as the temperatures rise, so do parents’ anxiety levels as they are faced with figuring out how to keep their children busy and entertained while also navigating their own work schedules and other commitments. This can be particularly challenging for divorced parents who share custody of their children. In addition to signing kids up for camps, planning family vacations and making sure that the kids are doing their summer reading, divorced parents must also work together to co-parent, work around vacation plans, and provide a consistent and stable environment for their children. Even if a divorced couple maintains a positive and respectful relationship, custody issues may arise as you make plans for the summer. If you have questions or concerns about your custody agreement, contact a skilled divorce lawyer.
What Tips Can Help Divorced Parents Prepare for Summer Break?
The lazy days of summer are anything but lazy for divorced parents who have to manage the logistics of parenting schedules, planning vacations and sharing summer holidays with their spouse. The following tips can help parents work around each other’s schedules and ensure that their children have a stress-free and fun-filled summer:
- Plan ahead. There are a lot of factors and logistics to consider and plan for once school is out for the summer. Parents should come up with a game plan well before the school year ends so that they know what camps or activities the children are going to participate in, whether there are going to be any changes made to the parenting agreement to allow one or both parents to take the kids on a vacation, and who is responsible for the costs associated with any of these summer plans. Discussing these issues ahead of time can help prevent arguments or disagreements that can be challenging for you and your spouse. More importantly, this can create a very stressful environment for the children.
- Prepare for the summer schedule. Oftentimes, when divorcing parents are coming up with a parenting schedule, they plan their time based on the roughly ten months that their children are in school. However, when school is out for the summer, the children are suddenly home all day every day. If both parents work full time, it is imperative that they find summer camps and other activities that provide a safe place where the children have fun and are cared for while the parents are at work. This takes planning as many popular camps fill up quickly. It is also important to keep in mind that the camp hours may not line up perfectly with both parents’ work hours, so they may have to make arrangements for a family member or friend to pick up their children from camp. In addition, there is often a time gap between the last day of school and the first day of camp. This could be one to two weeks. Parents will need to either take time off or make the necessary arrangements to make sure that someone is home with the kids for that window of time.
- Include a summer vacation clause in the custody agreement. Most parents have a clause included in their divorce agreement that addresses general vacation time that each parent may request over the course of the year. Divorced parents are also urged to include a specific “summer vacation time clause,” which can help promote a healthier and more respectful co-parenting relationship. In addition, this may help avoid unpleasant scheduling conflicts.
- Avoid conflict. Summer is meant to be a time for kids to relax, recharge and enjoy time off from the stresses and pressures of the school year. However, nothing is more stressful for children than being put in the position of watching their parents argue, particularly if they are fighting about custody-related issues. The following tips can help divorced parents maintain a conflict-free relationship:
- Discuss vacation plans. Both parents should inform each other about the details of summer vacations that are being planned, including hotel reservations, flights, and what types of activities you have planned for the children. This allows both parents to discuss concerns about potential safety hazards, and the steps that are being taken to keep the children safe while they are on vacation.
- Do not try to one-up each other. If one parent is taking the children to Disney, or to an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean, it is natural for the other parent to want to plan an equally exciting and extravagant trip to try to outdo the other parent. This can be exhausting, expensive and stressful. More importantly, the children often end up feeling like they are caught in the middle of their parents’ fight to outdo each other.
- Be sensitive about certain dates. In addition to Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, there may be other dates during the summer that have special meaning to one or both parents. For example, if your spouse’s birthday falls on a weekend that you are scheduled to have custody of the children, he or she will probably want to spend that day with the children. If you are willing to be flexible and swap weekends so that your ex can celebrate his or her birthday with the kids, that will show that you are committed to establishing a positive and respectful co-parenting relationship.
- Enjoy the time to yourself. It may take time to get used to not having the kids at home for a weekend, or more if they are going on a vacation with your former spouse. However, those feelings of anxiety, loneliness and sadness are more likely to fade if you are able to enjoy your time alone. Meet up with friends, take up a new hobby or simply enjoy the solitude until your children come home.
How Are Summer Expenses Handled?
In New Jersey, custody arrangements should address the costs associated with sleepaway camps, day camps and summer childcare, and what each parent’s responsibility is for covering those expenses. It is important to also consider the extra expenses that parents are responsible for if their children attend day camp or sleepaway camp. Even if your children do not attend camps, they may participate in summer sports, which may require equipment, footwear and travel expenses. These costs can add up. If your custody agreement does not address these expenses, and you and your former spouse cannot come to an agreement on how to split these costs, a skilled divorce lawyer can help.
How Do I Handle an Uncooperative Co-Parent?
Even if you and your ex have every intention of working together to ensure that your children have a stress-free and fun-filled summer, disputes may arise over parenting issues, summer vacation plans, and who is responsible for paying for camp, sports equipment and child care. Co-parenting is not always easy, and in some cases, your ex may make an unreasonable request, or refuse to even consider a change to a parenting agreement, even if it is in the children’s best interest. If your former spouse is uncooperative, and refuses to address issues related to summer vacation in a timely, productive and respectful manner, keep the following tips in mind:
- Let go of what you cannot control and focus on the issues that really matter.
- Avoid using combative language as this will only add fuel to the fire and make the situation worse. Remain calm and try to communicate with your ex in a way that is respectful and productive, particularly when the children are present.
- Avoid direct contact with the uncooperative parent. Limit communication to emails or texts, ask relatives to help with pick-ups and drop-offs between homes and avoid any potentially combative situations.
- Get legal support from a skilled divorce lawyer. If your co-parent refuses to cooperate, a divorce lawyer can work with you to protect your legal rights and ensure that your former spouse fulfills his or her child support responsibilities.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients with Co-Parenting Plans During the Summer
If you and your former spouse are facing co-parenting challenges related to summer vacation, contact our Morristown child support lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.