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By Danielle DeAngelis, Attorney at Law

Summer is coming up quickly and with it, questions about child custody and vacation. Many custody agreements provide some detail around who will have the kids and when. For example, the custody agreement may specify the non-custodial parent will have the children every other weekend and for two full weeks in the summer. Very few custody agreements break out specific dates year-by-year until the children reach adulthood. In reality, many factors come into play as parents work to determine exactly when those two weeks will happen. When does school end? Will the children need to attend summer school? What camps or summer activities will impact the dates? Are the grandparents coming to visit? It can become complicated, especially when you have more than one child’s schedule to accommodate!

Making Child Custody and Vacation Easier

In general, both parents have the right to spend time with their children and plan activities and vacations. Here are a few tips to help make planning summer vacations (and others) easier for the parents and kids:

  1. Communication should be top priority. It should be consistent and happen early. If you have not already sat down and discussed plans and coordinated schedules, now is the time to do so. Use a shared calendar or an app designed for co-parenting. While you’re talking about summer vacation, discuss fall break and the winter holidays, too.
  2. Be flexible. Plans change and outside influences come into play. Flights can be cancelled; work commitments change; people get sick; and special occasions come up. Work together to determine a fair plan that is equitable for both parents.
  3. Look forward, not backward. There may still be emotions at play and hard feelings from the separation and/or divorce. The children are what’s important here. Do not let those emotions drive arguments or poor decisions that negatively affect your kids.
  4. Consider and prioritize your children’s interests and activities. You don’t need to cater to every whim, especially when the kids reach that age where they just want to hang out with their friends and not go on vacation at all! But do pay attention to what they tell you is important (for example, a summer STEM camp they’ve talked about for months) and let them know what is important to you (spending quality time with them, visiting with the grandparents to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary, etc.).
  5. Have backup plans in place in case of unavoidable last-minute changes. What if dad ends up in a car crash and cannot manage the kids for two weeks? Will the grandparents step in and watch the kids? Or will mom keep the kids and allow dad to swap out his two weeks? Also, make sure each parent knows how to reach the other in the event of an emergency during vacation time.
  6. A final planning note: If your child custody agreement does not address international travel and you have concerns about your ex planning to take the children out of the country on vacation, you may wish to talk to an attorney.

While most parents will be able to come up with a fair and flexible agreement on their own, bring in a mediator or attorneys for both parties if that’s not possible. In any event, you will want to document the arrangements in writing so there are no misunderstandings. Need help with your custody arrangements for summer vacation (or any time)? Make an appointment today with our family law attorneys.