The countdown to summer break has begun! And that means that before the final bell of the school year rings, it’s time for you and your ex to iron out plans for the months ahead.
Are you ready for the less structured days of summer vacation? Planning a trip with your kids? Want more time with your child? Or wondering which parent pays for expenses like summer camp?
Here are answers to common summer co-parenting questions we hear all the time!
Q: How will my parenting time with my child change over the summer?
The first to answering this question is to check your current parenting time agreement. During your divorce negotiations, you and your ex hopefully negotiated a summer vacation parenting time plan that outlines exactly how your child will spend time with each of you during their break from school, including special holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend. For parents who live a longer distance from their kids, summer parenting time plans may also include provisions for the child to spend extended time with the parent to compensate for time missed during the school year.
If you didn’t make a summer parenting plan — or if your children have outgrown the one that is on file or you simply want more time with your kids this summer, there’s still time to negotiate. If you and your other co-parent are willing and able to sit down together, get out a calendar and start planning. Once you have a draft plan, put it in writing and have your attorney look it over before signing. This kind of mutual agreement is generally accepted by the courts as long as the child’s best interests are represented.
If parents can’t agree, they can go to court and a judge will hear what each parent envisions for parenting time and create a court-ordered schedule that parents must agree to follow. To save time and money, try as much as possible to take care of summer vacation planning out of court.
[Need help with the specifics of asking your other co-parent for extra time? Read our tip-filled blog: How to Get More Summer Parenting Time With Your Kids.]
Q: Do I need to ask my child’s co-parent for permission to go on vacation?
The short answer: it depends. Since travel is such a common point of contention among parents, there’s a good chance that at the time you established your child custody agreement, language was included that outlines the basics of parent-child travel. For example, your judgment may contain provisions for prior notification for travel dates and the obligation to provide travel itineraries.
Don’t want to have any hassles? Make sure that you comply with any or all notification requirements laid out in your custody agreement, well in advance of the deadlines set out in the agreement — and in writing. Taking all the steps you are required to can go a long way in preventing a less than agreeable co-parent from attempting any last minute hold ups or threats to report you for kidnapping.
Temporary custody plans for separated parents may lack specifics like travel plan notification rules. In this situation, give plenty of prior notice to the other parent if the trip coincides with your own parenting time, in writing. If going on a trip will require your child to miss parenting time with the other parent, you will need to negotiate this extra time first.
Does your getaway include travel to a different country? According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, if a child is accompanied on the trip by only one parent, that parent should have a note from the child’s other parent approving of the trip. For example, “I acknowledge that my wife/ husband is traveling out of the country with my son/ daughter. He/She/ has my permission to do so.” If a single parent has sole custody, a copy of the court custody document can replace a letter from the other parent.
Children will also need to comply with passport requirements when crossing international borders.
Bonus tip! The parent traveling with the child should have copies of the child’s health insurance cards, emergency phone numbers, and adequate supplies of any medications the child may take.
Q: Who pays for summer camp?
Summer camp for children is looked at as a necessity — and therefore a cost to be shared by parents — when the camp functions as day care for the child while the custodial parent is at work. If this is the case for you or your co-parent, there is a good chance that summer camp costs were already included in your child support award — based on tuition rates associated with the camp the child attended at the time of your divorce OR the type of camp your child might attend in the future.
And this is where there is often catch. What if one parent wants to send the child to an expensive overnight camp, but the other parent thinks this is a waste of money? Who gets to decide which camp the child goes to? For these parents, camp costs could more fairly fall under “supplemental care expenses” and thus might require more careful negotiation to settle.
When camp costs are in dispute, one solution may be to divide the cost of camp by the number of hours the child will attend each day (24 hours for overnight camp) and the parent who pays support covers a share of the time the custodial parent is at work. So if the custodial parent is at work for 9 am – 5 pm, the award would cover these hours. The custodial parent would cover the rest. Other parents come to other cost-sharing agreements, or go to court if they can’t come to an agreement.
For more in-depth information about camp costs, please read our blog: Kids & Divorce: Who Pays For Summer Camp?
A summer’s worth of peace-of-mind
Do you need help with summer parenting time? There is still time to work things out! For answers to all your burning questions, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled family law attorneys. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.