Whether you have a parenting plan in place throughout the year, or a custody agreement mandated by the family court, the arrival of summer and the prolonged period of school vacation that accompanies the change of season means that a new arrangement may be in the best interests of your children and former spouse. Children who are out of school require more supervision, more activities to be planned, and can cause more stress in an already stressful family dynamic.
Summer Parenting Schedules
Ideally, while you are first going through the divorce process, you and your ex should be working out a plan to cover parenting time for extended vacations, including summer break and holiday weeks throughout the year when school is out. At that time, both parties should create the parenting plan that will include specific guidelines for family vacations, including who has priority in certain years, length of time, geographic limitations, and minimum advance notice of any trips to be taken.
It is a good idea to have two identical calendars for each spouse to take home after that first planning meeting, to be added to by both after any subsequent sessions when discussing dates in the future. This way, both parents know what to expect. Paper calendars are more permanent and allow children to see that parents are on the same page when going from one house to another. Communication is always essential for successful co-parenting, and beginning on the right foot can make the transition easier on everyone involved.
Regardless of what your custody agreement is during the year, the extended amount of time when children are out of school can be tricky for anyone that has a nine-to-five job. The best thing for the children may be summer school programs, such as reading programs or summer camp. Even though summer school programs have a shorter schedule, they allow you to maintain that school year routine through a portion of the summer. Also, many summer camps offer sleepaway options, so the question of custody or parenting time might not be an issue for a portion of the summer.
What If I Can’t Afford a Sitter, Daycare, or Camp for the Summer?
The financial strain of suddenly having to care for school-age children while they are not in school can be overwhelming even if all you want to do is spend more time with your kids. You will want to review all of your family options, especially if there are grandparents who live close by, in good health, and are willing and able to lend a hand. Consider utilizing them for childcare even if it is only for a few hours a few days a week. Besides saving you money on expensive programs, grandparents are usually loving, and responsible caretakers. They can surround the grandchildren with family, tradition, and the stability which can be so crucial to children in these troubled times.
What If My Children Are Older?
Another variable to consider is the age of your children. As children get older, their schedules may dictate how they spend their summers. Summer jobs, sports leagues, intern programs, or even a desire to hang out with friends may take precedence over plans you are considering. If your older children are responsible, they may be given the option of getting a part-time summer job. This job may limit their options when it comes to spending additional time with a parent or taking a vacation, but they will still have a solid structure to adhere through during the summer.
Nobody is saying that making summer arrangements is easy. Putting aside bitter feelings towards a former spouse can be a challenge. However, it is a challenge best overcome by keeping lines of communication open along with maintaining flexibility and an open mind. Maintaining a sense of civility for the sake of the children will go a long way to alleviating stress for yourself, your ex, and most importantly, your children.
Do you have more questions about making a parenting plan for the summer? Call (516) 252-0223 to discuss your situation with one of our experienced legal professionals.