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If you are separated or divorced and have children, spring may become a stressful time as you work through custody issues and planning for summer vacation. Child custody agreements are typically spelled out in detail – often down to the specific time the children must be returned to the other parent. While this level of detail can protect the rights of each parent – especially in situations where the separation was not amicable – life sometimes gets in the way!

Summer vacation may mean summer camp, visits to see grandparents, sports activities, special trips or even summer school. The standard school-year schedule no longer applies, but the custody agreement remains in force.  What happens if the kids are supposed to go out of state to visit dad for a month but one child has to attend summer school? What if the 10 days at summer science camp junior wants to attend cut into mom’s time?

Here are some suggestions to help make planning for the summer a bit less stressful:

  1. Plan ahead. The more advance notice you have to adjust schedules, the easier it will be on everyone.
  2. Be reasonable. We often see situations where the parents are so at odds they will refuse a request for a schedule change even when it is reasonable and they have no conflicts that would cause issues. Step back and consider the impact to your child. A lot of stress and hurt feelings may be avoided if both parents make equal accommodations for the child’s benefit.
  3. Set priorities. Your child’s health and safety come first. Education is also important. If there is a medical issue that prevents a summer visit, or if summer school impacts visitation, work with the affected parent to ensure he or she gets equal time with your child before or after the event.
  4. Get it in writing. After you come to an agreement with your ex, make sure you get the details down in writing and signed by both parties.
  5. Address specific concerns with an attorney. If you are concerned about making changes to the agreement, have a situation where visitation is supervised, have concerns about domestic violence, or are worried your ex may not return your child, speak with a child custody attorney to understand your rights and any changes you may consider making to the agreement.

We hope everyone has a safe and stress-free summer!