Co-parenting is challenging enough — but it can become even more complicated when school is out for the summer and the children are splitting their time between parents who live far apart or in different states. When co parenting in different states, you may need to consider different arrangements for your children or make adjustments to the parenting time schedule during the summer months. Summer break can be a great opportunity for your child to spend quality time with the parent who lives across the country, especially if they don’t get to see them much when school is in session.

Creating an Interstate Parenting Plan

An interstate parenting plan can help ensure both parents foster a relationship with their children, regardless of how far they live from each other. If your child must travel a significant distance between parents, frequent visits may be difficult. When co-parents live in different states, a parenting plan may look a little different from one where parents live close to each other. In these cases, it’s important to include the following details:

  • How often the child will visit the out-of-state parent
  • The length of time for the visits
  • The mode of transportation by which the child will travel
  • Who the child will be accompanied by when traveling, depending on age
  • How transportation costs will be paid
  • How often the distant parent will visit the child in their home city
  • Where the distant parent will stay when they visit the child
  • Communication between the parent and child when the child is not in their care

When parents live far apart, it’s critical to create a parenting plan that is tailored to the child’s age and specific needs — frequent travel and transitions may be difficult for younger children. The parenting plan should also account for summer vacation schedules, particularly if the parents live some distance away from each other. While parenting time and child custody matters must be addressed as part of a divorce case, a parenting plan may need to be modified at a later date if a parent later decides to move or the child’s needs change as they grow older.

Summer Parenting Time Schedules When Co-Parenting in Different States

The summer parenting time schedule you and your co-parent put into place will depend upon how old your child is, your family’s circumstances, and many other factors. You should also consider how much time each parent gets to spend with the child during the school year. Depending on how far parents live from one another, a 2-2-3, 5-2-2-5, or 3-4-4-3 schedule may or may not work. If parents live just across state lines, other common summer schedules are alternating weeks or every two weeks. However, these schedules may not always be financially feasible if airplane travel is involved.

When both parents get to see the child regularly during the school year, parents might decide to leave the school-year schedule intact and allow for an extended vacation of two or three weeks with the distant parent. This can be less disruptive to a child’s routine and give the parent and child uninterrupted bonding time.

If a parent doesn’t have any parenting time with the child throughout the school year because they live too far away, parents might agree that the child should spend the whole summer or a significant portion of it at the distant parent’s house. A longer stretch of parenting time can minimize transportation costs that would otherwise be incurred with more frequent travel and allow the child to have time to settle in. Alternatively, the child could spend July with one parent and August with the other. Whatever pattern parents decide upon, it’s essential to have a clear plan in place to prevent conflict — and ensure the child feels secure. Security for a child is developed by having regular ongoing contact with a distant parent during the time they are not together. A child needs both.

Things to Consider When Creating a Summer Break Parenting Time Schedule

There’s a lot that goes into creating a parenting time schedule for the summer and you should plan as early as possible to eliminate any potential stress. By planning ahead, you may also be able to organize vacation time with your child and other summer activities. Co-parents should work together to reach an agreement that works best for everyone involved. Remember, summer is a special time for children — no matter what parenting time pattern you use and schedule you implement, the best interests of your children should always be first and foremost.

Although creating a summer parenting time schedule when parents live in different states can involve numerous logistics, there are a variety of resources and tools parents can use to simplify the process. For instance, the Our Family in Two Homes Resource Package can assist you with building a solid co-parenting relationship, improving communication, and structuring a parenting plan in even the most complex situations. The workbook can help guide you and your co-parent to reach an effective agreement that will help your children thrive and make summer memories with both parents that last a lifetime. A Family Specialist in the Collaborative divorce process can also be an invaluable resource in helping you think through what is developmentally appropriate for the child.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Co-parenting in different states during summer break isn’t easy. But a skillful family law attorney can guide you through the process of creating an effective summer vacation parenting plan that works for the whole family. Divorce and family law attorney Louise Livesay has been dedicated to helping clients in the Twin Cities area with a wide variety of divorce and family law matters for over two decades. We welcome you to contact us online for a consultation or by calling 651-294-2338.