The summer shuffle is real. For divorced parents and their children, it is a complicated mix-up to the regular routine, filled with summer camps, programs, and more.
Navigating through the bumpy road of child custody is challenging enough, but summer can be an especially difficult time of year when parents need to agree on these summertime extracurricular activities they want to sign their kids up for.
Tough questions to tackle may include:
Physical custody, or a parenting schedule, pertains to where the children spend their in-person time – in other words, where the children live. California courts will determine which parent should be granted physical custody of the child and thereby become responsible for the child’s day-to-day care needs.
Questions that are answered when coming up with a physical custody agreement include:
When are the kids with Mom? When are the kids with Dad? Who gets the kids for which holiday? What day of the week will the kids be picked up, and what time should the exchange occur?
Most custody cases give one parent primary physical custody, or the custodial parent, and grant the other parent visitation rights. Typically, this non-custodial parent is given exclusive parenting time with the child:
This is where the coordination of child custody and parenting time with summer camp comes into play.
There are cases when one parent is given sole custody, which means the California court system has given the parent exclusive physical and legal custody of the couple’s children.
This scenario is usually only granted to one parent if the other parent is found incapable of taking care of the children because of drug or alcohol abuse or a past of criminal activity. The other parent without custody may still be allowed to have some visitation, but it is much more limited, with certain restrictions or monitoring on each visit.
Legal custody addresses which parent has the legal right to make major decisions for the children, such as those applying to medical, health, education, and religion. Another big decision could be whether or not to send the kids to public or private school, or to register them for activities, like summer camps – and to decide which one is best.
If one co-parent has sole legal custody, that parent can legally make the decision about whether the child attends camp, as long as the camp does not overlap with the other parent’s time with the child. If it does, the parent with legal custody may have to agree on makeup time with the other parent.
If no agreement can be reached on this makeup parenting time, however, the parent without legal custody can file an application with the court to enforce this part of the child custody agreement to hold the other parent accountable.
Keep in mind that, overall, legal custody is not always an all-or-none situation, where one parent makes all of the decisions across the board for the children.
Unless one parent is proven to constantly make poor decisions when it comes to the children, it is becoming less likely that one parent will be awarded full legal custody. Some divorced couples share legal custody and will need to agree with decisions on summer camps or come to some sort of middle ground on their own. For example, if the co-parents normally split the cost of summer camps, but one parent is adamant about sending the child to camp even though the other parent is against it, a compromise could be that the insistent parent covers 100 percent of the costs.
It is hard for co-parents to plan summer vacations and other activities for their children, like camps, around a custody agreement that restricts parenting time on certain days of the week. That is why it is important for parents to work together to create a workable routine rather than refuse to move dates around to accommodate summer plans for their children’s sake.
The parent that has physical custody typically has control over the choice of children’s summer activities and camps, but if any vaccinations or medications are needed for summer camp, that medical decision would usually fall under legal custody. In San Diego, parents can actually ask the court to approve a summer schedule that is different from the rest of the year to address the challenges of summer activities.
Co-parents should review their current child custody agreement to cover the “what if’s” of summer camps and activities. It should include:
Summer vacations also align with the parent that has physical custody of the child unless the vacation requires a passport. An effective child custody agreement should give each parent vacation time with their kid(s) over the summer, with each parent specifying the dates they plan to vacation and notifying the other parent to avoid conflict.
COVID risks are still in the picture in environments like summer camps, so the parent with legal custody should confirm that the camp program of choice provides clear guidelines and strictly follows the state of California’s rules for hygiene, social distancing, and the advised, restricted numbers of campers. This information should then be shared with the other co-parent.
When there are disagreements over health concerns like this, it is important for co-parents to make the best interests of their children the first priority.
If you are dealing with a child custody case, call 619-299-9780 to schedule a free telephone consultation or contact a San Diego family law specialist here.
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