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Your kids may be ready for summer, but are you?

Although the end of this school year is in sight, there is still much to do before summer. For students, this could mean studying for finals and talking to friends about sleepovers and camp.

Planning is also critical for parents; especially those who share custody of their child. Starting the planning process now can make it easier to make adjustments or clear up confusion before potential conflict threatens to ruin everyone's summer. Below are some suggestions for parents who may be navigating their first summer break as divorced or separated parents sharing custody.

  1. Review your custody order. Make sure you know who has legal custody and physical custody, as well as whether your order has specific provisions regarding notifications you need to provide to the other parent regarding travel. This is crucial to ensure that you are in compliance with your court order or agreement, but is also a matter of common courtesy. Provide information to the other parent that you would want them to provide to you, such as information about travel out of state, flight itineraries, etc. Additionally, you need to make sure that if you have joint legal custody you are consulting the other parent about anything that should be a joint decision. Finally, some institutions such as child care facilities, camps, or extra-curricular activities, may require signatures and information from both parents if the parents share joint legal custody, even if the child is attending during only one parent's custodial time.
  2. Think about the schedule changes. In the summer, your child may need to go to a child care facility or summer camp program. They may have soccer games, summer camps and other activities that operate on a different schedule than everyone is used to during the school year. Parents should be sure they know how these commitments affect parenting time, custody exchanges and transportation logistics to plan accordingly. Parents should also think ahead about whether there are special family events such as weddings or reunions that they need to ask for additional time or ask to swap time to ensure that the children can attend. If the custody order or agreement allows specific vacation weeks or requires parents to give advance notice of vacation designations, parents need to make sure they do this in a timely fashion and are in compliance with the order. Some orders or agreements specify that if the time is not designated a certain number of days or months in advance, the time cannot be exercised. Additionally, if a parent needs additional time for vacation or travel plans, the parent should notify the other parent as soon as possible and see if something can be worked out in advance. Unless parents can work together on adjustments to the schedule set out in the order, the terms of the order control. It is important for parents to extend the same flexibility that they would wish to receive in return in order to build a positive co-parenting relationship.
  3. Discuss extra expenses. Summer activities can cost money. When parents split these costs or if one person is responsible for paying them, knowing how much everything costs is essential. Talk about these expenses now to ensure both parents know if and how much they may need to pay. Remember to include fees, equipment purchases and anything else that could affect financial expectations. Also keep in mind that if financial contribution from the other parent is contingent on the parents mutually agreeing to something, asking the parent after the fact is not appropriate. Instead, for any expenses that the order states should be mutually agreed upon, parents should discuss and agree on these before decisions are made.
  4. Give kids a head's up. You won't need to pore over every potential change and how it affects a custody order or parenting plan with your children. However, you can start talking to them now about any big changes that may be happening this summer, especially if your order establishes a schedule in the summer that is completely different from the regular schedule during the school year. This can help them prepare and feel included, which can make it easier for them to adjust to difficult situations.

Parents can find additional tips and suggestions for sharing custody during the summer in articles like this one.

While there are still a couple months before school ends, tackling these issues now can allow parents and children to start off the summer on the right foot. 

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