Summertime should be a time of relaxation, vacations, and fun for children who are no longer tied to school schedules. In many families, this translates to more time spent outdoors, more time spent with friends, and hours of easy play. However, for the children of divorced or unmarried parents, it may lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety if parents fail to plan ahead. Arguing with your child’s other parent over schedules, camping trips, or week-long vacations to Disneyland will often inject conflict and tension into your child’s life, making summer more akin to a war zone than a long holiday.
To avoid that unpleasant prospect, let’s look at some tips for how you can handle child custody and visitation from the time your child’s school schedule ends until Labor Day and the return to the school year.
Tip#1: Make Summer Parenting Plans Ahead of Time
Most custody arrangements involve a custodial parent with whom the child mainly lives and a noncustodial parent who has a visitation schedule. If you are the noncustodial parent, you will likely have been awarded extra time with your child during the summer months. Don’t lose that precious time by failing to let the other parent know about your summer plans for your child. Sit down with the other parent and discuss when you want to schedule that cross-country trip to the Rockies or to the coast. Work it out ahead of time so you don’t wind up arguing about it in front of a judge while your child sits at home disappointed and upset.
Tip#2: Don’t Assume Summer Changes Your Court Order
Because the kids are out of school and schedules are loose and easy, you may assume you can go loose and easy on the parenting plan approved by the court. You may think that, since it’s summer, you can have an equal share or even more than an equal share of time with your child. However, remember that your child custody and visitation arrangement is a court order. That means you must follow its terms or you could find yourself standing in front of a judge explaining why you didn’t. It is always best to stick to the agreement that you have with the court. If you are uncertain about what you can or cannot do, it’s best to get advice from your family lawyer.
Tip#3: Keep the Other Parent Informed & Put It in Writing
In anyone’s life, issues will arise that mean you will have to change your plans or schedule. When you’re going to be late to pick up or return your child or when you can’t make it at all, inform the other parent as soon as possible. It’s best to have covered this in your parenting agreement at the start so that there’s an agreed-upon way to handle schedule changes. You can either agree to call, email, or send a text in this situation. For any schedule changes, it’s also always best to put them in writing so there’s no confusion between the two of you. This keeps you protected from accusations of straying from custody arrangements. If your relationship with the other parent is especially prone to conflict, keep backup copies of your emails, texts, or other forms of communication so you have proof.
Tip#4: Ensure Your Child Can Communicate with the Other Parent
It’s best to have established ways for your child to communicate with the other parent when you take him or her away on a trip. This is especially true if you take your child out of the country. You don’t want to be accused of interfering with or preventing communication with the other parent. For example, you may have to purchase an international cell phone to ensure that your child has an option in this matter.
Tip#5: Make Your Custody Exchanges in a Safe Place
Avoid putting stress on your child during custody exchanges. Children are more observant and sensitive than you may think. They can pick up on conflict between you and the other parent easily, which is why you should exchange your child in a public place where arguments are less likely to occur. Exchanging custody at daycare centers, at school, or at playgrounds or parks works best when parents can’t get along or maintain civility with one another.
The Best Advice of All
Arguably the best advice of all regarding summer custody or even custody year-round is to get the details worked out and written up beforehand. The more detailed your parenting plan is from the start, the less chance there will be for conflict later, and the less you will have to work out while under pressure.
If you need legal help with any aspect of your custody arrangement, we urge you to contact L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC. Our five decades of combined legal experience can be put to work on your behalf in this very vital matter.
Contact us for a consultation at (937) 685-7006 or through our online request form today.