July 23, 2014 | Share
Child custody and summer vacations: how to structure a plan that works well for everyone
Summers can be challenging times to coordinate schedules even for families in which there are no divorce and visitation issues. When these issues do exist, summer parenting can become quite complex. Collin County divorce attorneys recommend that parents plan well ahead in order to avoid any conflicts in scheduling and any conflicts between the parties. Below are examples of parenting plans that offer flexibility with respect to the summer.
Summer parenting typically begins around Memorial Day weekend for children who are not in school yet, and when school recesses for summer break for children who do attend. One option for summer parenting is that the parent with custody for the school year transfers custody to the other parent for the summer. The visitation schedule can simply be reversed, allowing the rights of the noncustodial parent to attach to the other parent for the summer. If that does not work with vacations and summer camps, a wholly new visitation schedule can be instituted for the summer. A similar option is to allow the noncustodial parent between one to two months of parenting time in the summer, with the custodial parent having visitation rights during that time. If the parents live within a close geographical proximity, then the one to two months could even be spread out over the summer. If the parents live far apart, then the parenting time would have to be structured in consecutive weeks.
If the noncustodial parent prefers to have extended visitation during summers (rather than extended parenting time that temporarily changes custodial and visitation rights), two consecutive weeks of extended visitation to allow for a vacation can be written into a parenting plan. In fact, the custodial parent can include two consecutive weeks during the summer into the parenting plan as well to allow for a vacation uninterrupted by visitation from the noncustodial parent. In the standard possession order under Texas law, the noncustodial parent is allowed thirty days of extended summer possession (or parenting time), in addition to the first, third and fifth weekends of summer months. The custodial parent can pick one weekend during the noncustodial parent's extended possession time for visitation. If the standard possession order is not applicable, or if the parties cannot agree on any options such as those discussed above, one or both parties can seek a modification of custody in court.
Child Support and Children’s Activities in the Summertime
Collin County divorce attorneys discuss with parents two frequently asked questions regarding summer parenting: child support and children's activities. Often times, the noncustodial parent who is paying child support will ask whether that child support is owed for the summer or months that the child is with him or her. This is an issue that should be addressed upfront when drafting the parenting plan and calculating child support. To simply deduct the months a child is with the payor may ignore the fact that the order took into account those months in the first place. If the payor thinks that paying support while caring for the child is unfair, then the parents can try to work out an adjustment to the child support, or the noncustodial parent can file for a modification of the child support order.
The second frequently asked question deals with the continuation of children's activities during extended visitation: can the noncustodial parent be forced to continue the activities started by the children while in the care of the custodial parent? The short answer is no; they cannot be forced to continue summer camps, swimming teams, or tennis lessons. The better answer is for the parents to try to work out a way for their children to have as much continuity in their summers (and lives) as possible.
If you would like assistance in drafting a parenting plan that includes a summer custody schedule, or have any questions regarding visitation, support or other child custody issues, contact Collin County divorce attorneys at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC,.