The divorce is final, and you think you and your ex have successfully hammered out a custody and visitation arrangement for the children. Then summer arrives, and you (belatedly) realize that the custody arrangement doesn’t quite address all the summer issues that are coming up. What can you do?
Summer is generally a time when the children are not in school, and families are taking vacations. While this does allow the children to spend more time with each parent, it can also create difficulties when one or both parents have work schedules that make it difficult to spend that time with the children. Each parent may have a two-week vacation during the summer that they intend to spend with the children; however, this leaves some two months remaining for most children.
Summer can be a great time for the noncustodial parent to spend more time than normal with the children—particularly if the parents live in different cities. When you are putting together a summer schedule, you must consider whether the children will be attending summer camps or spending time with grandparents or other family members.
Whether both parents will be taking vacation time with the children is another consideration. Work schedules must also factor in—a parent who travels for work or works very long hours would not be able to have the children for an extended period of time during the summer. A parent who works from home may be able to more easily adapt to having the children home.
How Do I Create a Summer Custody Plan?
The best course of action is for the parents to consider all the issues that come with summer, then put together a schedule. This schedule should allow the children time with both parents—and summer fun—but fit into the work schedules and lives of each parent.
When an agreement has been worked out, it is a good idea to file the agreement in court. While this may seem to be an unnecessary step, if issues arise, it can be invaluable protection.
The courts are generally happy to leave these decisions with the parents, unless there is something in the agreement that would not be in the best interests of the children. If there is no agreement between the parents, the court will intervene, using the best interests of the children as a guide.
Your summer custody agreement can be as different as you please, so long as all those involved are reasonably happy with the outcome. It’s a good idea to keep the following in mind when putting together a summer custody schedule:
- If your child must attend summer school or any other type of commitment that is school-related and non-negotiable, block this out on the summer schedule first, then work around it.
- Summer visitation regards the time spent with the child or children. If the children are “with” one parent for a month but rarely see that parent, spending the majority of their time in daycare or with the parent’s new spouse, then they are not really with that parent.
- If your ex typically spends one weekend a month with the children, he or she may not want longer visitation in the summer. If this is true, you cannot force them to take the children for longer periods—no matter how much you need a break.
Some parents are hesitant to allow their ex to have the children for extended periods of time. This could be because the children are young, and the other parent is not the usual caregiver, or could be due to abduction fears. If you have reason to believe that your ex might take the children and leave the country, make sure the court is aware of your fears. You can also stipulate in the agreement that there will be no crossing of state lines with the children.
How Will You Split the Summer?
If the noncustodial parent sees the children rarely during the school year (perhaps he or she lives out of state), the children might spend most of the summer with the noncustodial parent. This type of arrangement usually works better for older children—and when the noncustodial parent already has a strong relationship with the children. The parents might want to do a “two-week on, two-week off” arrangement, which works well when one or both parents want to take the children on an extended summer vacation.
Regardless of how you feel about your ex, if he or she is a good parent, then you must set your own feelings aside and think only of the children. As an example, suppose your ex rarely sees the children because he or she lives in a neighboring state. Also, suppose your ex lives close to the beach in an area with many fun things for the children to do during the summer—and the ex has a flexible job that allows them to do these things with the children.
In this situation, the best interests of the child might clearly be to spend a couple of months with the other parent during the summer. If your child is older, they may have the right, under Georgia law, to determine which parent they want to live with—or spend the summer with. Under state law, a child of 14 can choose which parent to live with, barring certain circumstances.
Contact Our Atlanta Child Custody Lawyers
At Hobson & Hobson, P.C., our Atlanta child custody attorneys know that parents need different schedules for summer. Yet during a divorce, many couples forget to create a summer parenting plan to fit their needs. That’s where we can help. We work to help you by creating a summer parenting plan that is designed to give you and your children a wonderful summer.
Call us today at (770) 284-6153 or fill out our confidential contact form. We can set up a consultation so that you can review all your legal options.
Attorney Sarah Hobson at Hobson and Hobson, P.C. are powerful advocates for those who fight for better futures for those going through divorce and custody law matters.