While many parents and kids alike dream of a summer break complete with plenty of sand and water fun - and maybe even a fun vacation getaway - custody issues can get in the way. Any time parenting and visitation schedules deviate from the norm, it can cause tension between parents and stress for the children.
Below are three common summer custody issues and tips regarding how to navigate them without derailing your summer fun.
- Scheduling issues. Depending on your court order, there may already be some type of schedule for summer. This can range from week-on-week-off arrangements to one parent having a few weeks or months of uninterrupted time with the children. Or, the schedule may be left to the parents' agreement. There may also be additional stipulations, such as how far in advance the parties must notify each other of vacations or specific holidays that will interfere with the set custody plan. It's important to be fully aware of what your court order says and talk to an attorney about requesting a modification if needed.
- Lack of communication. If things have been going well between you and your ex, you may think you don't need to have a meeting about the summer schedule - but this could be a mistake. People often assume that they are on the same page, when really they couldn't be farther apart. If you can, meet for coffee and discuss both of your expectations for the summer and how you'll inform each other of any changes or issues that may come up. If you are in a high-conflict coparenting situation, it may be best to have these conversations through email so you have everything in writing if you need it for documentation later on.
- Child support confusion. It's common for noncustodial parents to think they don't have to pay child support during any extended time they have with the children over the summer. For example, if the noncustodial parent gets four consecutive weeks over the summer, that parent may be tempted to not pay child support that month. This is not a good idea, however. You could end up in arrears and face possible enforcement procedures. If you think a modification to the support order is needed, you can seek one through the courts.
A little bit of preparation and a lot of communication can go a long way when it comes to peaceful coparenting over the summer, but if any issues or questions arise, scheduling a consultation with an attorney is a good idea.