School's Out For Summer – And Existing Parenting Arrangements May Be Too
Vacations, overnight camp, lots of free time, and a schedule that looks completely different than during the rest of the year are just some of the reasons that child custody during summer break can be challenging for divorced parents.
Parenting time arrangements that work perfectly well during the rhythms of the school year may not be as well suited to the long days and weeks of summer. Balancing custody during summer break requires that parents find productive, practical ways to modify and adapt their existing parenting plan to ensure their child has the same supervision, structure, and support they have during the fall, winter, and spring. While a parent who cannot work with their former spouse to make needed adjustments can ask a judge to modify a parenting plan, finding a mutually acceptable situation without going that route is almost always better for everyone.
Here are some practical tips to help divorced parents navigate child custody during summer break.
First, you must recognize that summer is a different animal for kids. The activities, programs, and amount of unsupervised time on their hands require that parents be flexible with their schedules. Especially is this true when both parents work full-time jobs and have their own obligations and restrictions on their time.
But when both parents accept that child custody during summer breaks is a whole new ball game, the summer will go much smoother for you, your ex, and especially your kids. Be open to schedule adjustments that may not be optimal but are, after all, only temporary.
Plan In Advance
Whether divorced or not, every parent knows that making plans for how a child will spend their summer is not something that can wait until that last bell rings on the last day of school. Popular camps and programs fill up long before summer, and vacations require reservations, days off, and travel arrangements that you must make well in advance.
Divorced parents do well to coordinate what their child will be doing and when and share vacation plans well in advance, including information about the destinations, dates, and any necessary arrangements. Consider the impact of vacations and camps on the overall custody schedule and make appropriate adjustments to ensure that both parents spend quality fun time with their child over the break.
Establish a Clear and Detailed Schedule
Since summer schedules for kids vary much more each day and from week to week than during the school year, parents can easily get confused about their obligations. But no parent wants to be responsible for their child missing scheduled activities or standing around waiting for a pick-up the parent didn't remember was their responsibility.
Establish and keep a detailed summer schedule that outlines the specific dates and times when each parent will have parenting duties and child custody during summer.
Consider What The Child Wants
Especially as they approach and enter their teenage years, kids may have their own ideas about how they would like to spend their precious summer days. They may have their own commitments, such as a summer job. Involve the child when making or modifying custody arrangements, consider their input, and try to accommodate their needs and desires when reasonable and practical.
Try to Maintain Consistency
Summer may be a time for flexibility and relaxation, but parents should be careful how much they relax their parenting rules. Parents should aim for consistency between households on issues such as curfews, acceptable activities, communication expectations, and boundaries. Consistency will help provide the child with a sense of stability and security regardless of which parent they are with.
Alternate Longer Stretches of Time
Instead of dividing summer custody into shorter periods, consider alternating longer stretches of time with each parent. This approach to child custody during summer allows children to settle into a routine, establish stronger bonds with both parents and engage in more extended activities or trips. Longer custody periods also minimize disruptions and transitions, promoting stability and a sense of belonging for the children.
Establish clear and reliable communication channels between parents (and step-parents, when appropriate), ensuring that information regarding the children's well-being is promptly shared. Utilize various methods such as phone calls, email, text messages, or one of the many co-parenting apps available to maintain effective communication throughout the summer break so parents can collaboratively deal with any curveballs or unexpected circumstances that may arise.
Child Custody During Summer Break Doesn't Have to Be Stressful
Sharing child custody can be challenging any time of year, but summer can present unique challenges to parents and children. An experienced Colorado Springs child custody lawyer can provide you with the compassion and logic you need to take the stress out of a stressful situation.