Summer holidays may look a little different post-divorce. While previously you may have taken family vacations and sent your children to camp, now you will likely have to work with your co-parent to coordinate vacations with your children. This can be a daunting prospect, especially if you and your former spouse are not on the best of terms. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t look forward to the summer break.
Below we have provided some tips to help co-parents plan for summer vacation. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip #1: Review Your Custody Agreement & Parenting Plan
Most custody agreements or parenting plans outline how custody will be handled during school breaks, including the extended summer break. While some families see no change in custody, it is not uncommon for custody to shift, giving the children more extended and uninterrupted time with each parent. It is also common for custody agreements to require the consent of the other parent before you can take your child out of state or out of the country.
Reviewing your custody agreement should be your first step in planning your summer vacation. This way, you will know what the default plan is, and can determine if your vacation will require a shift to the regular schedule.
Tip #2: Start Planning Sooner Rather than Later
The sooner you start planning, the better. It is not uncommon for a summer vacation to require an adjustment to your visitation schedule. Figuring out your vacation plans (including the dates, location, and nature of the trip) as soon as possible can help you give your child’s other parent plenty of notice. The more notice they have, the more time they have to think through any proposed changes to visitation, and the more time they have to make arrangements to accommodate your plans. This also gives them the chance to ask you any questions they have about the proposed trip and gives you time to provide them with the information they need.
Tip #3: Figure Out Who Is Responsible for Paying for the Trip
Generally speaking, the parent taking the child on the trip will cover the associated costs. However, if you are planning to send your child to a sleep-away camp or on a school trip (such as a trip to visit potential colleges or a study abroad language program), parents may elect to split the costs. Before committing to the trip, make sure you review the cost of the trip and have an open discussion you’re your co-parent about how the trip will be paid for.
Trips, especially summer camps and international trips can be very expensive. Do not assume that your child’s other parent will automatically be on board with the trip or with paying for it. Instead, involve them in the decision-making process and make sure you are both on the same page regarding how you will share the costs of the trip.
Tip #4: Be Prepared to Compromise
Planning for a child’s summer vacation is often a point of contention between co-parents, especially if it involves adjusting your established visitation schedule. Many parents do not want to give up the time they have with their children. If you are asking your co-parent to give up some of their time with the kids to accommodate the vacation you are planning, find ways to make up the time with them. For example, if they give up three days with the kids, work with them to schedule makeup days after you have returned.
If you are able, be flexible with your travel dates. Do not book flights, hotels, or trip activities until you have discussed the trip with your co-parent. They may have a schedule conflict or may be planning a trip around the same time. Work to find a time for the trip that works for both you, your co-parent, and your children’s schedule.
Tip #5: Involve the Kids in the Planning
While you want to avoid making promises, you may want to involve your children in vacation planning. Find out how they want to spend the summer and find out what other obligations they have. For example, if they attend summer school, avoid scheduling a trip when they have tests scheduled. If they participate in summer sports clubs, avoid scheduling your trip when they have games or tournaments.
Children also frequently experience anxiety or feelings of guilt when they go on a trip with one parent and that trip causes them to sacrifice time with their other parent. Communicate with your children and look for ways to alleviate their concerns. Similarly, if they are going on a trip with their other parent, let them be excited about it, and make sure they know that they do not have to feel guilty for having fun with their other parent.
What to Do If You Need Help
Making summer plans for your children can be a fraught process. If you are dealing with a difficult co-parent or are struggling emotionally, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Working with a therapist or family counselor during difficult periods can provide you with the emotional support and guidance you need. This is particularly helpful if this is your family’s first summer post-divorce.
If you are in a dispute with your co-parent, or if they are not abiding by your custody agreement or parenting plan, you may find the help of an experienced attorney invaluable. Reach out to our law firm to discuss your case and find out what your legal options are. Camille Borg Law PLLC has helped countless families navigate child custody disputes and other related issues. We are prepared to help you, too.