May 20th, 2022
As summer vacation approaches, kids are getting excited about having several months out of school, and parents are looking forward to having more time with their children. Co-parenting in the summer in Minnesota often involves extended periods of parenting time for the parent with whom the children do not live most of the time. Both parents might have plans for vacations or other activities with the kids. The kids might have activities of their own, such as summer camp or summer school. All of these activities present the potential for conflict between co-parents. Louise Livesay has spent years helping co-parents resolve disputes and find common ground. The following tips can help co-parents avoid conflict and work together to make sure their kids have a great summer.
1. Stick to the Plan
Many co-parents have a parenting plan from their divorce or another child custody proceeding. This plan establishes schedules for when the children are with each parent during the school year, on holidays, and during school breaks.
Parenting plans often include periods of extended parenting time during summer vacation. If the children primarily reside with one parent and have parenting time with the other parent several weekends a month, that parent might have an extended period of several weeks or longer in June, July, or August.
This kind of parenting schedule allows each parent to make plans for both themselves and the children. Both parents should stick to the schedule established by the parenting plan as much as possible. It is possible to deviate from the schedule, but both parents must agree to any changes to the schedule. Surprise schedule changes often lead to conflict.
2. Plan Ahead
Whatever a parent might be planning for the summer, the sooner they can make those plans, the better for everybody. The parenting plan might establish specific periods of time throughout the summer when each co-parent has extended time for vacation with the children. This schedule ensures that the children have meaningful time with each parent.
Plans for vacations and other activities should be based on the parenting plan schedule, ideally with some room for error. For example, suppose Parent 1 has extended parenting time with the kids for two weeks in June, beginning on June 14 and ending on June 28. Any vacation that Parent 1 has planned should begin after June 14 and end before June 28 in order to avoid any possibility that flight delays or other problems might cut into the other parent’s time with the children. Similarly, Parent 2 should not plan a vacation that starts too soon after Parent 1’s vacation time ends.
Co-parenting can be a difficult process, especially after a divorce. Communication is critically important, but it can also be easy for co-parents to overlook this aspect of co-parenting. As the above example of vacation planning demonstrates, though, both parents need to know about the children’s plans throughout the summer. It is often better to err on the side of too much information about the kids’ schedule.
Both parents should be able to prepare a reasonably complete schedule that includes all of the children’s major summer activities, such as:
- Summer school classes;
- Day camp;
- Overnight camp;
- Regular play dates;
- Sports or other organized activities; and
Co-parents should agree on a way to share information about the children’s schedules and plans. This could be by e-mail, text message, or a co-parenting tool like Our Family Wizard, designed for divorced parents.
4. Prepare for the Children’s Emotional Needs
Summer plans can get overwhelming for children, especially if they are still adjusting to their parents’ divorce. The mere fact of traveling back and forth between homes can have a profound emotional impact on a child.
Remaining sensitive and responsive to a child’s feelings can help ease their transition into co-parenting and allow them to enjoy the summer. A child could become homesick for the other parent. This is a normal feeling for a child to experience under these circumstances. Let your child connect with the other parent. Or, if you receive a call from your child when on vacation with the other parent, don’t judge the basis for the child being homesick. It is natural.
5. Plan on How to Ask for Help if Conflict Arises
Disagreements between co-parents, at least to some degree, are probably inevitable. No one ever agrees on everything all the time. The key is to find ways to resolve disagreements before they turn into larger conflicts. Planning summer activities far in advance of summer can help co-parents identify the points on which they disagree early. They will have time to work out a solution. If they need help resolving the matter, they can turn to a mediator. Waiting until the last minute is often an invitation to conflict.
Once summer vacation is underway, the possibility for disagreements will remain, but it might require a faster resolution. If co-parents can agree ahead of time on a method for resolving disputes, they can avoid disruptions to the children’s summer plans. A mediator can work with them to develop dispute resolution strategies for these situations.
Family attorney Louise Livesay has helped families in the Twin Cities area resolve disputes for more than twenty years. She uses Minnesota’s family laws to assist her clients in transforming their relationships. If you have questions about collaborative law or divorce mediation, please contact us today online or at (651) 964-3887.