School will soon dismiss for the summer (if it hasn’t already) and your kids will joyously rush home for three months of freedom.
Long days of warm weather and memorable summer road trips are hopefully in their near future. All of us can likely look back on the summers of our youth and think of a million fond memories we’ll always cherish.
As a divorced parent, however, there are some very important things to keep in mind regarding your child custody arrangement as you head into the summer months. Thinking ahead and sorting out these issues ahead of time can help you avoid confusion and unnecessary arguments with your ex later on.
When does summer parenting time begin?
For many divorced dads, their parenting time is predicated on the school day. For example, a custody order might state that they get the kids on weekends and that parenting time will begin once school lets out on Friday afternoon. But what about during summer when school is not in session?
To head off any confusion over this issue, it is best to have your decree specifically state a time in which your parenting time is to begin. So something along the lines of, “Visitation is to occur from the time school releases on Friday or 3:30 p.m. when school is not in session.”
Also make sure you know the precise date when summer parenting time begins. Your decree might state that it is to begin the last day of school, but that day often changes because of snow days and other unforeseen circumstances. Refer to your court order and clarify with your ex so that you know exactly what your summer parenting time schedule is going to look like.
Adjusting child support during summer parenting time
It is common for the kids to spend a longer amount of time with the non-custodial parent during their summer break. Should the amount of child support the non-custodial parent is paying be modified in any way during the time the children are staying with them?
Typically, state child support laws will not have a provision to address this. However, during the divorce process a parent may ask for a credit during the summer months or argue for a reduction in child support based on the amount of time your kids will be spending with you.
It is also possible to go back to court to modify your child support order and ask for either of those, but as with any modification it is not an automatic function.
You and your ex might both want to take some time during the summer to take the kids on vacation.
Usually, a parenting plan will specify which parent gets to pick their vacation days first during each year typically based on odd or even-numbered years. It’s also a good idea to have the plan note the date the vacation should be chosen by to avoid disagreements.
Unless the parenting plan states otherwise, you (and your ex) are free to travel wherever you would like with your children. However, it is wise to include language in your decree regarding travel arrangements that require you to keep each other informed on specific travel dates, locations, and whether third parties can attend. It is good decorum to give a general itinerary of your vacation to your ex along with a number the child can be reached at in case of emergency.
What about summer holidays?
Although most disputes over holiday parenting time stem from Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, there are still a few big summer holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Fourth of July that can complicate matters.
Unless otherwise noted, the holiday schedule outlined in your order takes precedence over the regular placement schedule.
Make sure you keep this in mind when you are scheduling vacation days as those days cannot infringe on the holiday schedule.