Mother carrying her baby girl while writing on a whiteboard calendar

It may seem strange to talk about summer before the kids have even gone on Spring Break. However, if you share visitation with a former spouse or co-parent, now is the time to pull out your calendars and start to plan your children’s summer parenting time schedule.

Summer Break Means Parenting Time Changes

Most families are used to their children’s summer break changing their schedules. However, after a couple has separated those changes become more drastic, and more concrete. The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in your Dissolution of Marriage or child custody case lays out who receives what parenting time during summer vacation and throughout the year. Common summer-time arrangements include:

Why You Should Plan Your Children’s Summer Parenting Time Early

It may seem early to start thinking about planning summer vacations, but if your visitation is controlled by an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities from the court, this is the perfect time to get started. That is because you are contending with more than just your own schedule. In planning your big trip or family gathering, you will also need to account for time awarded to your children’s other parent. By starting early, you take some of the stress out of coordinating schedules and increase the chances that you will find a way to strengthen the bonds your children have with both parents. You may also be able to take advantage of reduced prices on travel expenses, plane trips, and accommodations by acting now, rather than waiting for the season to pass.

How to Create a Summer Parenting Time Plan

Step 1 – Put Your Court-Ordered Visitation Dates on the Calendar

If you want to create a summer parenting time plan that gives your children the best experience, avoids conflict between parents, and creates the least amount of family stress, you’ll want to start by following the rules the court has given you. Use your Allocation of Parental Responsibilities order to lay out when the children are with you, and when they will visit the other parent, on a monthly calendar.

Step 2 – Add in Holidays

Your Allocation of Parental Responsibilities may also designate who receives various holidays throughout the year. Often, these holidays rotate. For example, Mom getting Memorial Day one year, and Dad having that holiday the next. They may also alternate, so that when Mom gets Memorial Day, Dad gets the Fourth of July, and so on. Father’s Day and birthdays may also occur during the children’s Summer Break, so be sure to add them to the calendar as well.

Step 3 – Budget for Flexible Dates

Next, take note of how much additional summer parenting time each parent receives. This could be extended parenting time for a non-custodial parent living far away, or it may be floating holiday weeks. These are the flexible dates you will need to plan for and around. Your co-parent may be entitled to 7 of the 10 weeks of summer vacation, but the exact travel dates are flexible, and that gives you room to plan your own vacation time.

Step 4 – Gather Your Summer Plans

Now it’s time to gather your family’s plans and preferences for what will happen over the break. There are a lot of possibilities that go into this, such as:

While you are compiling this list, it is also a good idea to look into child care options available to you while you are working. If your other parent’s work schedule is different or more flexible than your own, consider that as part of your summer break strategy.

Step 4 – Don’t Make Premature Promises to Your Kids

This step actually applies most of the way through the process, but it comes up here because you will be asking your children about what they want to do as part of gathering your summer plans. Your children will be excited about some of the things that you come up with. However, you need to be clear that these are tentative plans and that nothing is certain until you have a chance to talk to your former partner. Be careful not to suggest that your ex-spouse is to blame for them not getting to do everything they want, or making it seem like he or she has the last word.

Step 5 – Communicate Your Wish List to the Other Parent Early

Once you have an idea about your ideal summer parenting time schedule and your top priority dates, it’s time to talk to your kids’ other parent. It is a good idea to give them advanced notice about this conversation so they can bring their own list of preferences and needs. It is also important that you both be clear about the differences between absolutes and preferences, especially when a date would fall on the other parent’s scheduled days.

Step 6 – Negotiate for Your Top Priority Events

Remember that most Allocation of Parenting Time orders allow parties to agree to exceptions and modifications for the benefit of the children. If it is your year to celebrate the Fourth of July but your ex-spouse’s family is having a reunion that weekend, everyone may benefit from you being flexible and exchanging that holiday for another that better fits with your plan. When negotiating over these kinds of changes, try to keep the amounts of parenting time each parent receives the same. If you need 2 extra days for a long weekend camping trip, find 2 days you can give up somewhere else to offset the exchange.

Step 7 – Get Help Resolving Disputes

If you and your former partner cannot agree on the children’s summer parenting time schedule, you may need to turn to a family law attorney for help. Your divorce or custody lawyer can help you by clarifying the language of your current order and negotiating with your other parent on your behalf. You may also want to attend informal mediation. There, the mediator can help you and the children’s other parent come to a resolution you can both agree to while keeping the children’s best interest in mind.

Step 8 – Enforce the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Unfortunately, sometimes one parent simply does not want to comply with the parenting time plan set out in your Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. They may refuse to allow the children to spend summers with you, the non-custodial parent, or try to hold the children longer than they are supposed to. In those cases, an experienced family law attorney can help you file a motion to enforce the current order or even hold the other parent in contempt to be sure you get all the visitation you are entitled to.

At Aviso Law, LLC, our family law attorneys know how to help you plan your children’s summer parenting time in a way that minimizes conflict. We know how to use informal negotiations and mediation, as well as Colorado parenting time enforcement options to protect your time with your  children over the Summer Break. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.