The summer months are approaching quickly, and children will soon be out of school. As the shift to summer schedules can add stress and establishing an effective co-parenting process after divorce can be challenging, divorced parents are encouraged to start thinking about summer parenting time early on, so last-minute scheduling problems and conflict can be avoided. The experienced family law attorneys at M. Sue Wilson Law Offices have compiled a few helpful tips for divorced parents to incorporate when creating a summer parenting time plan.
What Is Parenting Time?
When a married couple with children makes the decision to separate, the court system encourages both parents to be involved in the children’s lives. Regardless of the mutual custody arrangement, guidelines are created to outline how much time each parent spends with a child. The court uses several factors when making the suggested parenting time schedule, taking into consideration the ages of the children and each parent’s schedule to locations and prior commitments.
Helpful Tips for Preparing a Plan
Transitioning from marriage to divorce can be challenging – especially when children are involved. Some parents are more set in their schedules than others, but unexpected events that interfere with daily routines can be stressful. When the summer months come around, it’s encouraged for divorced parents to create an effective parenting plan that fits every family member’s needs and desires. While there are many parenting plan examples, the tips below are helpful when starting the preparation process.
Gather Summer Plans
There are many different ways divorced parents can create a summer parenting plan, but initially, it’s helpful to gather all summer plans so all details can be considered at once. A shared calendar can be created, or a program like Our Family Wizard, AppClose, or the Talking Parents app can be utilized to streamline the process. Make sure to consider each child’s needs and activities along with each parent’s schedule and commitments. Below are a few examples of events that occur in the summer months that may need to be considered during planning:
- Scheduled parenting time exchanges
- Family reunions
- Sleep-away camps
- Childcare days
- Child work schedules for summer jobs
- Doctor appointments
- Parent work schedules
- School-related extracurricular activities
- Summer school or tutoring
- Camping trips
Add Court-Ordered Visitation Dates and Holidays
Divorced parents receive rules from the court that outline the time children spend with each parent. These guidelines help ensure each child has the best experience while eliminating parental conflict and family stress. Court-ordered visitation dates and holidays must be incorporated into the summer parenting time plan as this will help in the organization process. Additionally, each parent must enforce, encourage, and agree upon the allocation of parental time with the children to avoid instances in which one parent has different expectations such as holding a child for longer than planned.
Identify and Negotiate Top Priority Events
While creating a summer parenting time plan, it’s recommended that each parent identify any top priority events to allow room for exceptions and modifications – primarily if it benefits the children. Whether it’s a long camping trip with extended family, a holiday celebration, or a birthday, negotiating early on will save the risk of stress down the road. Keep in mind; parents should still try to keep the allotted time the same for each, even with summer schedule changes.
Communicate With Flexibility and Fairness in Mind
It’s not surprising that parents desire to spend as much time as possible with their children. However, when creating a summer parenting time plan, each parent must consider the other with fairness and flexibility. Be aware that unexpected obstacles may present themselves causing schedule changes and practicing fairness will ensure each parent gets ample time with each child. Clear and regular communication, fairness, and flexibility will help avoid parenting power struggles and unnecessary conflict.
Keep It Fun for the Kids
While a summer parenting time plan is created out of convenience for all family members, the children’s best interest should always be at the forefront. It’s essential for parents to check in with each child regarding their desires for the summer – especially if they’re older. Even though children won’t be making the final decisions regarding parenting time, it’s worthwhile for their activities and wishes to be considered during the planning process. However, each parent must remember not to make premature promises regarding summer plans as it needs to be a shared process that benefits all parties.
Seek Guidance to Resolve Disputes
Unfortunately, even the best-planned custody arrangements meet unexpected obstacles that cause schedules to change. Not only is it important for divorced parents to establish and maintain an open line of communication, but all changes must be collected in writing. At times, an ex-spouse may claim the other isn’t adhering to the parenting plan, and having all details in writing will confirm mutual terms. If for some reason, parents cannot agree on a summer parenting time plan, it’s best to contact a knowledgeable family law attorney to assist with the negotiation and resolution process.
Early Preparation Is Key
It’s best to begin preparing summer parenting time schedules early on to avoid unnecessary conflict and scheduling problems. Developing an effective plan early on will allow for an easy transition for children once they’re out of school. If divorced couples have difficulties establishing a parenting time plan, an experienced family law attorney is only a phone call away to assist in the process.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.