The long summer break is here. This may provide an opportunity for some parents to spend more time with their children; for others, it could prove to be an expensive exercise in finding suitable activities to entertain their children while they work.
Many divorced or separated couples look to their former spouse to increase their parenting duties to share the workload and costs more fairly while enjoying extra time with their child. Here is a look at the different scenarios that are encountered at this time of the year when it comes to modifying parenting plans for summer.
Primary parent does not want to relinquish any visitation time
In some instances, the primary parent may relish the opportunity to have their child to themselves for an extended period and will not want to share them with their ex. However, they must remember that their ex also wants to spend time with their child and be involved in their life, so they must rise above their own desires to prioritize the needs of their child.
They should negotiate a fair split with their ex, which may involve splitting the break in half, rather than alternating weeks, so the child has a more settled period of visitation with each parent, and each parent has a fair allocation of time with their child.
Secondary parent does not want extra visitation
In cases where a parent does not want extra visitation with their child, the primary parent should consider whether they can accommodate the entire duration of the break without additional financial support, particularly if they will need to take unpaid time off work or enroll their child in summer camp or activities while they work.
If the second parent cannot accept increased visitation during the break, they may be amenable to increasing their child support allowance  for the period or agree to minor alterations to the parenting plan that will ease the burden on the primary parent.
One parent will not allow the other to take children overseas
If both parents are legally recorded as having parental responsibility for a child, they are entitled to take that child abroad for up to 28 days without the express permission of the other parent. However, in order to maintain an amicable co-parenting relationship, they should work with their ex to agree on the manner in which this overseas vacation will happen.
They may be able to assuage their ex’s fears by demonstrating that they have considered the needs of their child, that the vacation they have booked is appropriate, that a return flight is booked, and that they will put measures in place for the child to remain in contact with them while they are abroad.
Parents struggle to agree on a fair split of parental duties during the summer break
Whether it is because of work or domestic circumstances, it can be complicated to modify a parenting plan for a lengthy period of time. Both parties should work with family members and friends to attempt to source additional childcare for their share of the parenting time if they are unable to commit to caring for the child themselves.
When the issue relates to agreeing to an amicable split that allows each party to engage in particular activities with the child during their period of visitation, they should keep in mind that parenting is not a competition and prioritize the needs of their child over any activities in which they wish to participate. Some flexibility will be needed to ensure that a fair compromise can be reached.
Last-minute changes to the parenting plan cannot be accommodated
If one parent has a history of requesting last-minute changes to the parenting plan or failing to adhere to agreed periods of visitation, it can be tempting to refuse to accommodate these changes. However, the impact on the child of doing this can be catastrophic. It is essential to work with the other parent and make their responsibilities clear.
In cases where a parent still fails to abide by the parenting plan and attempts to make last-minute changes to it, they should be reminded in writing that such changes cannot be accommodated and that failure to provide adequate notice could result in them losing out on visitation time with their child.
The bottom line
There are many ways in which school breaks pose a dilemma to divorced or separated parents, and in cases where issues with parenting plans are systemic, it can be useful to work with a family law attorney to help you resolve them. This may involve asking the court to set a standard possession order  that clearly defines the responsibilities of each party.
At Lewis & Matthews, P.C., we can help you achieve a solution that prioritizes the needs of the child, balanced against the desires of the parents. Contact us today to find out how we can help you agree on a sensible co-parenting plan for the school break.