Summer vacation is probably one of your child’s favorite times of the year. However, if you share custody of your child with their other parent, summer vacation might be the time of year you dread the most. Navigating parenting time schedules in the summer can be stressful and complicated. Here are a few things to consider when creating your parenting time schedule.
- Are you the parent with primary custody?
If you have primary physical custody of your child and their other parent has regular parenting time the other parent might get more time during the summer. In creating parenting time schedules, attorneys and judges try to strike a balance of overnights that are in the child’s best interests. This is done in several ways. For example, if your regular schedule has your child’s other parent having parenting time every other weekend, they might have them for a few days during the week in the summer, in addition to their every other weekend time. It is also common to see a parent who doesn’t have primary physical custody be awarded a full week of parenting time in the summer on a week on, week off basis. Alternatively, some parents flip the parenting time schedule in the summer so that the parent who normally has the children during the week has the children on the weekend during the summer.
- What activities is your child participating in over the summer?
Sleep-away camps and athletic camps are popular activities for children during the summer months. If you have a shared custody arrangement, the time your child spends at summer camp needs to be carefully planned with consideration to your parenting time agreement. Many court orders regarding parenting time include provisions that state that one parent may not plan or schedule activities during the other parent’s parenting time without reasonable notice and consent of that parent. Including such a provision in your own parenting time agreement will ensure that you do not have to change your parenting time plan for every summer activity your child is enrolled in.
- Vacations that involve long distance travel
Family law attorneys are regularly approached by parents who are concerned that their former spouse or partner wants to take their child out of state or even out of the country for a vacation during summer break. If there is no concern that the other parent is attempting to abscond with the child, there is no prohibition on taking a child on a long-distance vacation. The best way to prevent problems is to plan. Be sure to provide the other parent with a written itinerary of your travel plans. In addition, it would not hurt to send with the other parent with a written letter from you that states that you have given the other parent permission to travel with the child.
If you are concerned about the other parent absconding with your child, be reassured that state law now requires the insertion in every judgment a provision that states that neither parent can remove the child from the United States and visit a county that is not party to the Hague Convention. You can find a list of the participating or non-participating countries online or ask your attorney for a list.
- Vacation itineraries and keeping in touch
Allowing your child to go on a vacation with their other parent understandably creates anxiety. If you have an amicable relationship with the other parent, it may be easy for you to ask them for an itinerary and a way to contact your child, or at least for your child to contact you. If your relationship is not amicable, the other parent may be hesitant to provide you with an itinerary for fear that you will intrude on their vacation time. Remember that almost every court requires that a child have free access to contact both parents at any time. At a minimum, the other parent should provide you with a way to contact your child while they are on vacation. It is important that you to not abuse this information or use it as a tool to harass the other parent or interfere with their vacation. A good rule of thumb is to keep contact limited to a brief nightly phone call to hear about their day and say goodnight.
- What about holidays that fall during the summer?
Generally, holiday schedules take precedence over the regular parenting time schedule. Remember this when planning your summer parenting time schedule and vacations as neither should infringe on holiday parenting time. Holidays that are frequently included in summer parenting time schedules include Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. If birthdays of either parent fall during summer vacations and you want to spend time with your children, be sure to include parent’s birthdays in the holiday schedule in the judgment.
- How does child support fit into all this?
When your child support is first determined, the number of overnights that each parent will exercise will include the holiday and summer overnights. This has eliminated the need to ask for an abatement of child support when you have the child more than six overnights if you are not the primary custodial parent.
There are no set rules about summer parenting time in Michigan. This gives parents the opportunity to make a summer parenting time schedule that serves the best interests of their child. An experienced family law attorney will have the experience and ingenuity to help you negotiate the precise schedule that works for your individual family’s needs.
If you need help creating or enforcing a summer parenting time schedule, Melissa Pearce & Associates, PLC can help. Our experienced attorneys are here to provide case-specific advice to you, and are here to talk whenever you are ready. Give us a call today at (248) 676-8976!