School is out for summer, and now that kids are back home and out of the classroom, parents are putting the finishing touches on what will occupy their kids’ time besides Snapchat and Netflix. But when parents are separated or divorced, picking a summer camp, coordinating schedules, and planning a vacation can be a bit more difficult, and often a touchy subject between exes. There are numerous ways parents can get themselves into trouble when it comes to making and following through with plans once school lets out, whether it is their first or tenth summer apart. But there are ways to avoid the drama and the litigation that sometimes follows when parents cannot resolve the problems themselves.
Summer Camp – Summer camps come in all different shapes and sizes, and depending on the program and the length, can become pretty expensive. They can also cut into a significant amount of a parent’s regular and vacation parenting time, so this is an area ripe for conflict on many levels. There are lots of decisions to make when it comes to summer camp – will the child even go? If so, where, for how long, and who pays for what? Even if the parents already have a custody and child support Agreement, it may be silent as to attendance at and payment for summer camp. And it can still prove to be an uphill battle even if your Agreement spells out how this issue is supposed to be handled if parents are dead set in their opposing opinions. If you have an agreement on summer camp, make sure you know what is required of both parties – do you need to collaborate with your ex to pick the summer camp? How much notice do you have to provide to them that you’ve chosen a camp and are expecting payment? If you have no Agreement, or if it is silent on summer camp, enough time needs to be given to the other parent to consider the options, the cost, and what enrollment would do to their parenting time and summer vacation plans.
Vacations – Custody and Parenting Time Agreements often contain provisions for vacation parenting time. However, it is still all too easy to end up in an argument with an ex over vacation plans. Again, it is important to know what your Agreement provides for so you do not plan a vacation during a time of year you are not allowed to go away, to a location you are not allowed to visit, or for a period of time exceeding what you agreed each party would have. If your Agreement is silent, or if you have no Agreement on Custody and Parenting Time yet, and vacation would interrupt the regular schedule, parents often find themselves with money being spent on travel they are not being permitted to take. Just as with summer camp, in these situations parents should give themselves a large enough cushion of time to propose the travel and either receive permission, or file an application with the Court. It is important to remember that just because an issue may seem emergent to you – you have plans to go to Disney World on August 1, but by July 20 you still do not have permission to take the child with you – does not mean it is emergent enough to the Court to give you an Order without filing a proper Motion and giving your ex an opportunity to explain why they do not want you to take the child with you.
Graduation & Prom – These special events mean a lot to both parents and children. But when parents do not have an amicable relationship, all too often one parent is not given complete information about the events such that they are denied the opportunity to meaningfully participate. That is, until the parent with all the information seeks contribution for the prom dress/tux, the limo, the shore house, the cap and gown rental, and the prom/graduation party being thrown in the child’s honor (that the other parent may not even be invited to). Generally, and provided there is no restraining order between the parties and neither parent is a danger to the child, both parents are provided with or agree to both be involved in the child’s educational, extracurricular, and social activities, including prom and graduation. And where parents have no Agreement, or it is silent on this aspect of a child’s life, actively excluding a parent from these activities, or failing to give them notice of the activities and an opportunity to participate, is an easy way to find yourself on the receiving end of a letter from the other parent’s attorney or a Motion.
There are a whole host of other areas that can cause a problem during the summer months – the possibility of expanded regular parenting time, the need for additional child care, or employment by the child – but as each example above shows, an easy way to stay out of trouble is to follow your Agreement (if you have one), to keep the lines of communication open between you and the other parent, and to timely and thoroughly provide information about your plans and ideas. It may not save you from ending up in Court, but by following the Agreement, you can show the Court you have complied with all that was required of you, and when there is no Agreement, you will have given yourself enough time (and hopefully created a paper trail) to give the Court the time and facts it needs to consider your request and enter an Order. If you have, or anticipate you will have, summer parenting time problems, contact Jacobs Berger, LLC, today for a comprehensive review of your circumstances and trusted advice to navigate these complex issues.