It's almost here. Summer.
Typically, this would be a time of year where you gear up for trips to the beach, or plan to take a vacation with the family to the coast, or perhaps Disney if the children are old enough.
But, this year is different.
You're getting divorced. Or, maybe you're already divorced, but you go through the same routine and dysfunction every summer when it comes to the parenting schedule.
And, you don't have the money to hire an attorney every time Memorial Day comes around.
It's tough. Know you're not alone.
What makes the summer more difficult than any other time of year is the fact that this is when most people take longer vacations and there are a bunch of holidays to consider.
If you don't have a parenting schedule with holidays and vacation time already agreed upon or written in a court order, this time of year can be very stressful for you and the children.
Tips to get through the summer without drama
First bit of advice to ensure your summer goes smoothly and with the least amount of drama; don't wait until the last minute to figure it all out.
If you wait until June to bring up vacation time, or start the conversation about who gets the children for July 4th, then you're asking for trouble.
Start the conversation about the summer parenting schedule months before it starts. If you're thinking about taking a vacation with the children, do your research and when you figure out where, when and for how long, ask your ex if he/she has any problem with you going before you purchase the tickets and make any non-refundable reservations.
If your ex objects to you going, then you can start to attempt to resolve it early on between yourselves, but if that doesn't work then you have ample time to file a motion with the court and try to get a court order permitting you to go with the children.
Remember, if you are thinking about leaving the country, you need permission from either the other parent, or the court. Plus, if you need passports for the children, you need the cooperation of the other parent so keep this in mind and leave a lot of time to get this done.
Don't give your ex a hard time about going on vacation with the children unless there is a good reason to. (Your contempt or ill will for him/her is not a good reason).
If you do, he/she will likely return the favor and give you a hard time when you want to go away with the children, or need a favor. Trust me, there will be a time when you need a favor.
Share the sunshine
You know the golden rule, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Sometimes, when you go through a contested divorce and are dealing with custody issues, this is hard to remember.
Hey, nobody's perfect.
If your spouse really wants to spend July 4th with the children this year, is it really worth starting a huge fight and possibly involving attorneys or the court? Maybe he/she has relatives who will be in town this year. Maybe there is another reason. It doesn't matter. My point is that if you had no major plans for this holiday, let them have it this year and make sure you get it next year.
Pick your battles. Let's stick with the July 4th example. Let's say you are thinking ahead and know you want to go away with the kids during winter break later in the year, but this year your ex gets the kids for that holiday, or part of it. July 4th is the perfect time to negotiate so you get what you want for winter break and your ex gets what he/she wants for the summer.
This is just an example of how it pays to be flexible with parenting time and vacations.
The last thing you want for your children to for them to be stressed about the summer and be stuck in the middle of a parenting time dispute. Kids are perceptive and know more than you think.
It's all about communication. Start early and communicate about all holidays and vacations in writing so it's documented. If there is going to be an issue, it will present itself and you can address it with the court by filing a motion way ahead of any planned trip or holiday.
Both parents should be able to enjoy the summer and spend time with the children. Try to work together and resolve disputes with minimal drama. That will leave more time and energy for fun in the sun and making lifelong memories with your family.
Jason a/k/a The Divorce Resource Guy coaches people who can't afford an attorney how to get through their divorce. To help you negotiate your summer schedule, check out these FREE negotiation tips used by divorce professionals.