If you’re going through a divorce, summer vacation may be the last thing on your mind. However, if you have kids, you need to think about it. The summer months often throw a wrench into parenting plans if you don’t prepare for them in advance.
Luckily, there are many ways to address summer break in your parenting plan. With guidance from your divorce attorney, you can draft a plan that accounts for your needs while respecting your custody rights in California. Here’s why a good summer parenting plan matters so much and some strategies for creating one that works for your family.
The Importance of a Strong Parenting Plan
A parenting plan can take many forms, depending on your family’s needs. It can be a simple statement that parents will work together to ensure they receive appropriate parenting time. It can also be more in-depth and include schedules explaining when the children will be with each adult.
Unless you and your ex-spouse get along perfectly, creating a more in-depth plan is usually best. The purpose of these plans is to reduce conflict. Having a document that clearly lays out when kids will spend time with both parents and how transfers and travel will happen ensures everyone knows what’s going on. There’s no room for confusion or disagreements because you’ve already answered the important questions.
This is better for everyone. It reduces your stress because you don’t need to constantly negotiate things with your ex. More importantly, it gives your children a stronger sense of stability and routine. A strong parenting plan makes all the difference in how well your custody split works.
Why Summer May Change Your Parenting Schedule
It should be no surprise that summer could impact your parenting plan. If your kids are old enough to go to school, you have eight or more hours every weekday when they are being cared for by someone else. However, during summer break, you no longer have that luxury.
This can cause problems. At a minimum, if your custody plan involves one parent picking up the kids at the end of the school day, you will need to find another location for pickups. You will likely need to arrange additional care during the day if you both work. This may include choosing a daycare program with your co-parent or working with family in the area to ensure your kids are always supervised.
Furthermore, summer often means vacations. If you want to go for a trip with your kids that would extend into your co-parent’s visitation or custody time, you must discuss how to adjust the plan. The reverse is also true – you may need to prepare to have your schedule interrupted by your co-parent’s vacation. If you cannot agree on handling these issues, you may need to petition the court for a modification.
Strategies for Summer Vacation When Sharing Child Custody
It’s best to account for these issues in advance to minimize potential conflict. As you are drafting your plan, you may want to consider some of the following strategies to make summer less stressful for everyone:
- Communicate with your co-parent regularly. Successful co-parenting relies on regular communication. As summer approaches, talk to your co-parent about their plans for the season and any considerations that you should keep in mind when making your own plans. This allows you to avoid accidentally double-booking your kids or scheduling conflicting vacations.
- Talk to your children about their preferences. Talking to your kids about what they want to do is also important. If your kids are old enough to have preferences, you can take them into account. For example, your kids may prefer to keep the schedule pretty much the same or ask to change things to make summer less stressful.
- Sign up for activities and plan vacations early. Once you know your co-parent’s plans, get activities on the books early. It’s much easier to plan your summer custody schedule when you know what activities your kids will be in and when you want to be out of town.
- Be flexible. Plans change, especially when kids are involved. Be flexible about the specifics when your co-parent plans a vacation, and they will hopefully grant you the same flexibility.
So, what is the best custody schedule for school-age children? That depends on your family’s needs. Some examples of strategies that may work during the season include:
- Flexible Weekly Schedules: If you split custody equally, swapping custody once a week is one of the most common schedules. However, you may need to build some flexibility during the summer. Consider changing the pickup day to make it easier to fit vacations into your schedule or shifting the exchange date weekly according to your kids’ schedules.
- Strict Bi-Weekly Schedules: Many families find bi-weekly swaps more appropriate during the summer. Swapping custody every other week allows for much more freedom to schedule vacations, summer camps, and extracurricular activities.
- Irregular Schedules: If your summer is packed, there may not be a perfect way to divide the weekly or bi-weekly. If you have an uneven custody division, this is even more likely. In that case, you may consider using the summer break to give your co-parent more time with your kids if they normally only have them on the weeks.
Consult Expert Child Custody Lawyers About Your Parenting Plan
Developing a parenting plan can be confusing but it doesn’t need to be. At CC LawGroup, we have decades of experience helping families develop parenting plans for every season. If you feel unprepared for summer vacation’s custody changes, we can help. Reach out to our California child custody law firm to discuss your needs and learn how we can help you draft or modify your parenting plan for this summer.