Child Custody and Summer Plans: Tell Your Ex NOW

Imagine buying plane tickets and hotel accommodations for an Aruba vacation for you and your children, only to have your former spouse tell you he/she has already made plans on those dates for the kids to visit relatives in South Dakota or Wyoming? Or imagine enrolling your son in a four-week baseball camp run by former MLB players only to discover he has already been signed up for a neighborhood arts and crafts summer camp? Both scenarios are disasters. Avoid these child custody summer mistakes and others by doing the following: 

Confirm it in writing: If you have not confirmed in writing with your ex any summer vacation plans you have, it is past time to do so. Many custody orders provide for vacation time during the summer—but only upon notice to the other parent.  It is best to get these vacation times planned now to avoid last-minute fights over vacation days. Getting a judge to review a complaint and resolve it quickly is highly unlikely and will probably result in a ruined vacation.

**Corollary: Are you planning to change the summer schedule already established in the court orders? You may believe you have plenty of time to request the change because this is only the second week of May, but realistically your time window is small. It takes 4-5 weeks to get heard by a Judge—and that doesn’t include the time it will take for your lawyer to write up the paperwork.  Better call your lawyer right now if you really need to change the summer schedule orders.

**Corollary Two: Is your older child planning to work over the summer?  If you have joint legal custody the decision of whether a child should work is a responsibility shared by both parents. While very few judges will stop a child old enough to work from having a summer job, you (and your child) can avoid unexpected aggravation by securing the written approval of the other parent ahead of time. Inform the other parent where the child will be working and what the expected shifts will be. This is especially important if the child’s job will occupy hours normally reserved for the other parent.

Hold off on summer camp enrollment: Planning to sign up your child (or children) for summer programs, camps, or sports that will impact the other parent’s time? Better not sign on the dotted line or cut any checks unless you have the other parent’s agreement (in writing). The other parent is not obligated to sacrifice their assigned time with the child for any of these things. It doesn’t matter how many strings you had to pull to get Susie into the summer dance program or Johnny into the elite summer soccer camp. The other parent’s time-rights reign in this circumstance. Avoid the potential conflict: make sure you have the other parent’s agreement in writing—right now.

Discuss today your childcare plans for the summer:  Many child support orders mandate that parents split the cost of childcare so a parent can work.  Make sure the other parent knows you plan to charge them for day care and let them know also who will be watching the child and how much it will cost.

Square away vacation plans now with the other parent: Provide your ex now with the complete itinerary and the contact information for where you will be with the kids. Why now? Do you really want to answer a million questions from your ex while you are feverishly packing on the eve of that long-awaited trip? I didn’t think so.

Planning to move? Better draw up those pleadings ASAP: If you are planning to move or to have your child switch schools (and you share physical or legal custody with the other parent) now is the time to call your lawyer. Immediately, in fact. To have the court approve your request by August when school starts, your lawyer must write up the pleadings and get the issue in front of a judge ASAP. Otherwise, your child will not be attending that new school when the fall semester begins.

The Real Estate Market is hottest in summer:  If you are divorcing and the home (or homes) will be sold as part of the split—get your home on the market today. The real estate market is hottest during the summer because (family) home buyers shop before the school year begins. Just as you want your children settled into a new school well before the semester begins, so do buyers. Capitalize on this increase in demand during the summer.

Summer is considered the relaxing season of the year—beaches, sun, pools, and strolls along the shore. And it can be that calm and enjoyable if you prepare properly. Coordinate your summer plans with your ex before booking any activities involving your children and come July your only concern will be what SPF lotion to wear outdoors.