The temperatures are hot. The kids are out of school. It's officially summer! And with summer, say goodbye to your daily routine and hello to possible chaos. This sentiment especially rings true if you have gone through a divorce and have to worry about child-custody agreements.
It's no surprise that summer vacations can often lead to a fight with your former spouse about where and when you take your children away for the summer. It's not fun for you or your ex, and it's certainly not fun for your children. Here are a few tips to consider to ensure your summer vacation plans don't get ruined. Child custody in the summertime doesn't have to get ugly!
1. Plan a vacation schedule
Unleash your type A personality and amicably meet with your former spouse to discuss and create a vacation schedule. By doing so, each party can voice his or her wants and desires and respond to concerns immediately. Once decided, stick to the plan.
2. Use open communication
If you have to defer from your agreed upon vacation schedule, by all means notify the other parent ASAP -- don't just leave! It's always a good idea to notify the other parent of your vacation plans or if those plans change. If for some reason or another you have decided not to tell the other parent of your plans (where, how long, how to be reached, etc.), be prepared for the other parent to possibly bring legal action against you. The courts will want a detailed explanation as to why you won't give up the information, and a judge will typically order a parent to divulge vacation plans for safety reasons, unless there is a compelling reason not to.
3. Consider mediation
Sometimes the best way to resolve summer vacation disputes is to mediate your differences in front of a neutral decision-maker. This is especially true if you know you and your ex have a volatile relationship. If you do, choose a different path and bring in a mediator to help come to an agreement. Either ex-spouse can hire a private mediator, or each party can hire a child-custody lawyer and resolve their disputes without going to court. If it helps to have a third party in place, than it's worth the added expense for less headache in the long run.
4. Set a court date
The last and final option would be to get the courts involved. Often in separation and divorce agreements, the following are set forth:
- The amount of vacation time each parent is allocated
- The amount of notice each parent must give the other one (e.g., they can't spring a trip at the last minute -- at least a few weeks notice is required)
In addition, many agreements limit the travel locations, and the scope of travel may be more limited when the children are younger.
If you desire to have a court ruling regarding your child's vacation schedule, then plan accordingly. Create the agreement as far in advance as possible so the court can approve the plan and make it legally binding. Often, this agreement, if approved by a court, can replace a regular child-custody agreement during summer time.
If no summer vacation agreement is in place, child-custody agreements generally allow a parent to take a child wherever she or he chooses, as long as the child is not in danger and there aren't any other restrictions. If this worries you, take the extra precautionary steps and make it legal. After all, the last thing you want to do is find yourself with an unwanted court date instead of going to that trip to Disney World because you and your ex could not come to an agreement.
Keep these tips in mind this summer when planning your child's summer vacation and you're sure to have a successful summer break with less headache, less worry and a lot more fun in the sun!