School's Out: Negotiating Child Custody for the Summer
Child custody agreements will often need to be reconfigured during the summer months to allow for the changing schedules of children and their parents. School is out, and many separated parents need to discuss daycare or summer camp options, or perhaps they need to negotiate time for extended vacations with either parent.
Whatever your reason, be mindful of the timeframe you are working with. Summer is just around the corner, so plan your trips and discuss options with your co-parent sooner rather than later. To make your custody discussion a bit easier, we’ve provided a few quick tips so you and your family can make the best of your summer.
1. Plan Ahead
Stay ahead of the game as much as possible, and keep track of any conceivable changes to your schedule and your children’s over the summer. This includes school. While there are a few year-round schools out there, most children won’t be attending classes during the summer, so make a few plans for them. If you and your co-parent both work, look into daycare options or summer camp programs. Try to come up with a few options so both your child and their other parent can have some input in the decision. In the best-case scenario, all of you will be able to agree on one.
2. Know Your Vacation Dates
Keep a calendar or notebook with all of your possible vacations and note any plans that may alter your current custody arrangement. For example, if you plan a 2-week-long vacation with your children, but your ex typically has the children one of those weeks, you will need to discuss possibly giving up some of your time with the children at another date to compensate.
3. Give Your Co-Parent Notice
As soon as you have set dates for vacations or trips that could interfere with your normal custody schedule, inform your co-parent. Not only can this open lines of communication in a civil way, it also gives them a heads-up to prepare for any alterations you all may need to make. If, for example, you have a wedding to attend on a weekend you normally have the children, you can ask if your ex can watch them in your stead. Try to be as courteous as possible, and keep in mind this is in the best interest of your children.
4. Let Your Children Chime In
While you don’t want your children involved in the negotiations between you and your co-parent, it would be advisable for you to see what they wish to do this summer. Discuss optional camps, sports teams, or programs they are interested in participating in, and see how doable they are. Also, make a note of any birthday parties or other events your children want to attend. This is important when you and your co-parent discuss schedules, and when each of you plan your own vacations.
5. Set the Schedule
When you have most of the details and dates hammered out on your end, plan a date to get together with your co-parent to discuss your child’s summer schedule. If you are able to be friendly, or at least civil, maybe meet over coffee on neutral ground, without your children, to discuss. However, if you are not able to speak or meet without argument, it might be best to discuss the schedule via email. Not only can this help avoid a stressful argument, it can also provide written proof of your attempt to make a custody schedule, should you need to prove your good intentions in court.
If all else fails, mediation could be a good option for your family. Mediation is not as costly as court, but still holds a weight of authority that could make your co-parent more willing to handle custody fairly. This might also be your only option, besides court, where an unbiased third party can help you negotiate a fair agreement.
Keep in mind, your children should be the first priority through all of this. While it may be difficult not to get caught up in arguments or frustrations while negotiating custody for the summer, prioritize the wishes of your children, first and foremost, and encourage their other parent to do the same.
If you are in a situation where you think your family would benefit from the help of a child custody attorney, contact McKinley Irvin in Oregon.