Summertime…A break from life as usual. So, too, for children with separated parents. Just how much depends upon you and your children.
For some families, summer is an extension of the school year schedule with the addition of uninterrupted summer vacation time for the children and parents. For other families, summer is the child’s time to spend significant parenting time with an “away” parent who lives out of state. For other families, summer is a time for a different schedule and more time with a noncustodial parent. And for still others, summer is spending time with extended family, at camps, and barely fitting in time for vacations.
Every family is unique. So, too, the summer schedule can be. There is no unified, mandatory summer schedule. Rather, the summer schedule can be customized to suit the needs of your family.
First, consider what summer routines currently exist for the children. Take into account longstanding family summer vacations, away summer camps, activities, vacation time with grandparents or extended family, and so forth. Make a list of these, when they fall, and how likely these are to continue in future.
Second, think about what your summer vacation traditions are. Are these likely to continue after the separation? How much vacation time is needed? How much travel time in addition? What about for the other parent? Update your list, for both parents.
Third, think about whether you will vacation with the children at other times of year? Spring Break? Winter Break? Just during the summer? Will a child miss days from school? Add to your list.
Fourth, think about how much time you have off work and are likely to take for school holidays when your children are off from school too. Do you have paid time off? Do you have enough paid time off for holidays and summer vacations? Are staycations an option? Or, do you want uninterrupted time with the children, even if you are still working as usual, and have a childcare plan? Consider what is realistic, what you can afford, whether you want the option of vacation time even if you may not take it every year, and whether a staycation makes sense.
Fifth, think about how much time you and the other parent want for vacation in light of past experience, traditions, and time off work. One week? Two weeks? Also think about the configuration. Consecutive or non-consecutive? In minimum blocks of time? Consider how much advanced notice you need of the other parent’s vacation, for your own planning and to accommodate a child’s summer camps. Consider whether vacations should take priority over camps or camps over vacations and the dates by which you would enroll a child in summer camp or plan vacation. Add this to your list.
Sixth, with all that information in hand, overlay the summer schedule over the regular schedule. How much does summer vacation disrupt the regular schedule? How many consecutive weekends will this result for one parent or the other? Would a different summer schedule make more sense instead? Would week on/off during the summer be less disruptive, with parents taking vacations during their scheduled weeks?
Once you have a specific summer wish list in mind, this becomes either the starting point for settlement discussions or a reference point for the court at trial when requesting a summer schedule.
Thinking about summers is a challenge in the midst of a separation and divorce. However, putting thought into it lays the foundation for new family traditions and reshaped summer vacations for your children for years to come.
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law. You can follow her on Linked In, Facebook, LindsayParvis.com, and subscribe to her Newsletter for discussion, news, and developments in Maryland family law.