Child Custody and Co-parenting Over Summer Break
Summer may be over, but it will be back again before parents know it. Every year, it seems like the school year flies by, and it’s time for summer break once again.
Kids look forward to summer break all year. It offers them not only a much-appreciated reprieve from schooling, but also allows them to take trips and gain experiences they simply don’t have time for within their busy school schedule. Summer also typically means time spent with special people: distant friends, seldom-seen relatives, and a reunion of summer camp companions.
To make sure both you and your children have the best summer possible, start planning ahead now. Be open and transparent with your ex about your plans, and be prepared to accommodate drastic deviations from the normal visitation schedule in order to fit it all in. It helps to get it all in writing, and if you need a more formal approach, you can create a specific co-parenting plan for the summer with the help of a New Mexico family law attorney.
You and your family can use the following tips to add a bit of certainty to the summer schedule — and flexibility for when plans almost inevitably change.
Get All the Important Dates Down in a Shared Calendar
You and your ex-spouse and your children all occupy vastly different social and professional orbits. In other words, you won’t be able to keep key dates in mind that each considers a priority unless you get it all down in writing.
The last day of school and the first day of the upcoming new school year are the most important dates to record, naturally. They bookend the summer and indicate when activities should wind down to prepare for the year ahead.
Other key dates include:
- Summer camp session dates
- Start/end dates for day camps or other summer programs
- Dates for big trips lined up
- Dates of key events, such as festivals or concerts
- Family events, such as reunions or a group-celebrated birthday
- Work events and other schedule conflicts that interfere with a parent’s availability
- Dates people may be in town visiting
Basically, anything that can’t be rescheduled last-minute, that involves reservations, or that means that one parent or the other may not be available to take the kids as planned should be marked down.
Also, avoid booking flights or making any other hard-to-change arrangements until both parents have had time to review the schedule and agree to a summer co-parenting plan.
Ask Your Children About What They Want to Do
When making your calendar, be sure to get input from the kids themselves. Children look forward to summer break all year, and not just because they get to sleep in on some days. They may be eagerly anticipating a family trip, a specific event, or seeing a friend they rarely get to hang out with during the regular school year.
Also, start gathering information ahead of time about any camps, day camps, or summer programs your children may want to attend. These tend to book up fast, so doing research and talking about what your children would like to do this summer gives everyone time to plan.
Make a Master Summer Co-Parenting Plan
With calendar dates in mind, parents can start to discuss who would care for the children on what dates. Parents can also begin to coordinate events like transporting kids to the airport or picking them up from summer camp.
When going over everyone’s dates, schedule conflicts or razor-thin time margins will inevitably show up. Don’t sweat it! We don’t have time to do every little thing each summer, and with multiple kids, it’s possible that one child will miss something while spending time somewhere else. The key is to be willing to negotiate towards the best outcome for your children, overall. Try to make room for the things they look forward to the most. After all, they only have a set number of summers before they’re not kids anymore!
Try to Account for Changes in the Routine (And Keep Visitation Equitable)
One of the biggest challenges summer break presents is that children go from a rigid routine to a more-or-less chaotic one. This can make planning ahead for who will have custody difficult, especially in the event of an emergency or unexpected conflict. You also want to ensure that, despite changes in routine, kids get an equivalent amount of quality time with each parent while enjoying the experiences they look forward to most.
As part of the plan, markdown who is available to care for each child at what time. Include options for backups, such as relatives or hired caretakers. These contingencies are in case one parent’s availability changes and someone is needed to either transport the children or care for them during a certain day.
Additionally, keep a rolling tab of the overall number of days spent with each parent over the summer. If this count differs massively from the overall timeshare ratio during the normal school year, consider making changes to plans in order for the children to spend the normal amount of time with each parent. Or, give the parent who normally has less time during the year more time than usual in order to form memories with your children.
It’s possible that major changes to your parenting plan and timeshare agreement could come in conflict with what has been set by the divorce decree. If you feel concerned that this could have consequences or that your agreement is being invalidated in the other parent’s favor, speak to a family law attorney to draft up a formal (or informal) document so that everything can be done equitably and above board.
Don’t Balk at Sharing Reasonable Costs
Summer camp is expensive! And so are flights and other trips. If both parents are in agreement that a specific trip or activity is in the child’s best interests, then they should be willing to split the costs between them as evenly as possible.
One exception might be if a trip is expensive and clearly only benefits one parent. Examples include trips to theme parks, vacation resorts, etc. Even still, parents should be willing to contribute in some way to the child’s enjoyment despite not being willing to split costs for these trips outright. They can buy the child a new pair of comfortable tennis shoes, for example, or give them money that could be used to buy souvenirs and food during their travels. This not only serves as a gesture of fairness but also ensures that you are contributing to your child’s good time, no matter which parent they are spending it with.
Get Assistance With a Summer Parenting Plan From Experienced New Mexico Family Law Attorneys
Many times, parents can amicably work out agreements between them, but sometimes things don’t always happen so neatly. Further, any major deviations from the divorce decree could technically put you in violation of a court order, regardless of the time of year. As such, it is best for parents to come to a mutual agreement put in writing that covers the duration of the summer. In extreme instances, parents may need to request a revision to the co-parenting plan or timeshare arrangements in order to remain in compliance with court orders.
If you want to fully exercise due diligence or avoid conflicts with a spouse, negotiating a temporary summer co-parenting plan is likely the best strategy. You can speak with the attorneys at New Mexico Financial & Family Law for guidance, assistance, and representation. Schedule a no-risk case evaluation and initial appointment when you call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online.