As summer quickly approaches and you begin to make summer plans, it is also time to start thinking about your summer parenting plan to ensure that you are prepared and in compliance with the terms of your court order. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you enjoy a stress-free summer when you are co-parenting a child:
1. Consult Your Parenting Plan
Although school is still in session for a few more months, now is the time to consult your Parenting Plan in preparation for summer. Often times, parents have a school-year parenting time schedule that differs from the summer parenting time schedule. Likewise, if you and your co-parent live in different states, it is likely that the co-parent who lives out-of-state has been awarded all or a portion of the child’s summer break for parenting time. It is important to understand and prepare for any changes in the parenting time schedule. Furthermore, depending on your child’s age, it may be appropriate to start preparing your child for the impending schedule changes.
2. Plan Your Vacation
Many Parenting Plans, whether by agreement of the parties or court-ordered, provide each parent with an opportunity to exercise vacation parenting time with their children each year. Generally, vacation parenting time occurs during school breaks, such as summer vacation. Every Parenting Plan is different, but often times a Parenting Plan includes a deadline for parents to disclose their vacation plans to the other parent. Other Parenting Plans give one parent the first pick of their vacation dates in odd years, and the other parent in even years. Therefore, it is important for you to review your Parenting Plan and comply with all of its terms when planning your summer vacation with the children.
Another important factor to consider when planning your vacation is the priority of vacation parenting time versus holiday parenting time. For example, many Parenting Plans state that holidays take precedence over vacation and regular parenting time. Therefore, if your co-parent has been awarded the Fourth of July holiday this year, and you were considering taking your vacation with the children over the Fourth of July, you must confer with your co-parent to see if an agreement can be reached for you to have the children on the Fourth of July. If an agreement has not been reached, you must reschedule your vacation parenting time so that it does not occur on the Fourth of July.
3. Put Your Agreements in Writing
Along those lines, if you and your co-parent do reach an agreement to make minor modifications or adjustments to the summer parenting time schedule, it is always best to have those agreements in writing. Email is often the best method to document your agreements, although text message will suffice regarding minor changes. If you and your co-parent agree to a change in the schedule over the phone, it is best practice to send your co-parent a follow-up email memorializing the agreement.
While this tip is helpful during the summer months when minor adjustments to the parenting time schedule are often made, it applies year-round. Furthermore, any substantial or continuing changes to the parenting time schedule should be submitted to the court so that the court-order reflects the schedule that is actually being exercised.
4. Be Flexible with Your Co-Parent
While this tip will not apply to everyone, and there are times when parents should follow their Parenting Plan to the T in order to avoid conflict with the co-parent, when possible, be flexible when your co-parent requests a minor schedule change during the summer. Remember that there may be a time when you will need to ask a favor in return, and your co-parent will be more likely to accommodate you when you offer the same flexibility to your co-parent. Children also benefit when parents can work together and make minor changes to the schedule, especially if the minor change allows the children to participate in important activities, such as attending family reunions or having an opportunity to spend time with extended family members.
5. Consult with an Attorney
If you have any questions or concerns about your summer parenting plan, now is the time to consult with an attorney to address the issue so that it can be resolved well in advance of summer vacation. If you wait until the beginning of summer vacation to consult an attorney about a question or dispute about your summer parenting plan and court intervention is necessary, it is possible that the court will not have availability to hear your dispute until after the summer is over. Furthermore, the more proactive you are in understanding your summer parenting plan, the more stress-free and enjoyable it will be for you and your children!