5 Tips For Putting Together a Summer Custody Schedule

Creating a summer custody plan for newly separated and divorced couples requires thoughtful consideration and clear communication to ensure the best interests of the children are met.

If you have recently gone through, or are going through, a divorce—particularly if there are children involved—you are likely well aware of how your divorce will change summer plans for you and your family this year.

Here are five tips to help you put together a summer custody plan:

1. Start Planning Early

Begin discussing and planning the summer custody schedule well in advance of the season. This allows both parents to have ample time to review and negotiate the plan, taking into account any vacations, camps, or other commitments. If you already have an agreement or court order as to how the summer will be divided, make sure you review it carefully and abide by the timelines and schedule. Keep an eye out for any clear deadlines by which you must alert the other parent of your vacation schedule with the children.

2. Consider the Children’s Needs and Preferences

Take into consideration the ages, interests, and preferences of your children when creating the summer schedule. Older children may have specific activities or events they want to participate in, while younger children may need more structure and routine. Especially with older children, it’s crucial to consider their preferences, even if they don’t dictate your plans.

3. Be Flexible and Willing to Compromise

Flexibility is key in co-parenting arrangements. Be open to compromise and willing to make adjustments to accommodate each other’s schedules and preferences. Remember that the goal is to create a plan that works for everyone involved, especially the children.

4. Include Special Summer Activities

Summer offers unique opportunities for children to explore new activities and experiences. Discuss how you will handle special summer activities such as vacations, summer camps and programs, sports leagues, and family gatherings. Determine how these activities will fit into the custody schedule and how expenses will be shared. Again, if you have an agreement or court order, read it thoroughly as it likely addresses these issues.

5. Communicate Effectively

Clear and open communication is essential for successful co-parenting. Use a variety of communication methods, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, emails, or co-parenting apps, to discuss the summer custody plan and any changes or updates that may arise. Keep each other informed about any scheduling conflicts or unexpected events that may impact the custody arrangement.

Addressing Unexpected Challenges

No matter how carefully you plan your summer arrangements, you might still face challenges. It’s difficult to predict how children will respond to the first few summers when their parents are living in different homes.

I regularly work with therapists as a part of my practice. Their consistent advice is to do everything you can to avoid conflict in front of your children, to not speak ill of that parent in front of your children, and, whenever necessary, to put your children’s needs ahead of your own.

This may mean not having your children at your family’s traditional July 4th gathering. Or it may even mean spending weeks without seeing your children at all so that your spouse can take them on a vacation.

Of course, this can be gut-wrenching. But it is important to remember that your ex-spouse is still your child’s parent, and in order to be happy and healthy, children should have access to both parents. Moreover, this time allows for the creation of new family traditions, offering a chance for growth and excitement for everyone.

Most of all, it is critical to remember to protect your emotional well-being and the emotional health of your children.

Do your best to enjoy the summer and ensure that your children do as well, particularly during what can be a challenging and stress-inducing time!

Read the article originally published in Psychology Today here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/legal-matters/202405/5-tips-for-putting-together-a-summer-custody-plan

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