There is a saying that we only have 18 summers with our children before they launch into adulthood. While making plans for campfires and s’mores and signing up for summer camp can evoke extreme parental joy, things can become more complex when it requires consulting with an ex.
The following are some helpful tips to take into consideration while formulating your summer plans.
Look at your Parenting Plan
The best place to start when thinking about summer break is by taking a look at your existing Custody Agreement. Many Agreements will contain explicit terms regarding the summer months. For example, in an odd year the child will spend 4th of July with one parent and in an even year the child will spend 4th of July with the other parent. Beyond that, both parents may need to discuss any proposed changes to the typical custodial schedule.
Consider Making Adjustments
It may make sense to make temporary changes to your Custody Agreement in order to block off additional time. Some families prefer having a summer custody plan that accommodates their individual needs, such as:
The exact terms of your summer custody arrangement will vary depending on your particular circumstances, but a court approved modification to your typical custody agreement or summer custody plan ensures that any new changes will be legally enforceable.
Start Planning Before School Lets Out
One of the best ways to potentially avoid conflict with regard to summer plans is by preparing and proposing a plan well in advance. Depending on the terms of your custody agreement, it may even make sense to consult with the other party before you book your flights or hotel.
Planning in advance can avoid unnecessary hostility or frustration. Many summer camps begin to enroll in the spring, so reaching an agreement about which camps your child or children might attend well before the summer break ensures that you will have the childcare coverage or enrichment opportunities secured before the last school bell rings.
Many parents often find it helpful to involve their children in brainstorming what sorts of things they might do over the summer. This can also help the child or children have a sense of predictability with what’s to come.
For example, if you are able to discuss options with the other parent in advance, you might be able to offer a proposed schedule to your child where you inform them of which weeks will be spent where, potentially alleviating any anxieties they may be having about life outside of the typical day to day routine they are used to during the school year.
Plan for Contingencies
In addition to being clear on the details of your plans (including itinerary) and retaining an open line of communication with the other parent, it is a good idea to outline a protocol for how to address potential injuries or medical issues that come up along the way. For example, if a child were to need emergency medical care or a parent were, who would the first phone call be? Would the other parent have the first option to care for the children while the other parent was seeking treatment? Thinking through these concerns may add some additional peace of mind should an emergent circumstance arise.
This may also be a good opportunity to review any recent medications a child has begun taking or if any new allergies have emerged. Additionally, children may need to receive certain vaccinations over the summer for school in the fall. If this is the case, parents can communicate about who is responsible for making sure this gets done on time. Having these details in writing can set both parents up for success over the summer months.
In addition to setting explicit expectations with the other parent, it is also important to communicate expectations to the child or children. Topics such as screen time, discipline strategies, bed times, homework and access to communicating with the other parent on demand are worth discussing in advance, especially if there is a disparity between households on how these issues are handled.
“Leave America, two kids follow her…” This line from the latest Harry Styles album is believed to be a reference to Olivia Wilde, his former girlfriend. Wilde shares custody of two children with her ex Jason Sudeikis.
While not all custodial agreements become enshrined in a Billboard Top 100 song, if you are planning on embarking upon an international trip with your child, it is important to ensure that you have all of the paperwork in order before you get to the TSA checkpoint.
There are several documents required to travel internationally with children whose parents share custody. These include things such as prior written authorization of the other custodial parent prior to leaving the home country and any other necessary written permissions.
Additionally, the child must have a valid passport and visa with specific travel dates, as required by each country you are visiting. If your custody agreement already addresses travel specifications, be sure to abide by those specific terms.
Lastly, if your itinerary changes, be sure to communicate with the other parent, to avoid any potential claims of child abduction which can be exacerbated by international travel without prior authorization.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This saying, coined by Robert Burns in 1785, still holds true to this day. Even with the most meticulously curated plans, open communication and explicit expectations, life happens. Perhaps a child falls ill during a scheduled weekend trip or a beloved grandparent comes to town on short notice. Some last minute flexibility may be necessary.
Another potential consideration might be if you have younger children who are used to spending more time with one parent than another and they become distraught and miss the other parent.
While these considerations may fall under “contingencies” there may also be one off circumstances that require flexibility on behalf of both parties.
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