As the warmer months descend, many people experience a change in routine. Children are out of school, parents take time off work, and families spend more time together. If you are co-parenting, or have a blended family, this can be more challenging than expected.
With multiple schedules and summer fun to be had, it is important to prepare yourself and take deliberate parenting action during the warmer months. Whether you have been co-parenting for a long time, or are just beginning your new setup, some basic tips can help everyone remain happy and amiable until school starts again.
The Basics of Co-Parenting and Blended Families
Co-parenting is the process of raising a child when the child’s parents live in separate homes and are not romantically involved. This arrangement can occur as the result of divorce or when two parents are not romantically involved. Child custody agreements are a way to schedule co-parenting with the help of the courts.
Blended families occur when two people who have children from previous relationships get married or begin living together. The children, though they do not share parents, are stepsiblings and reside in the same home for at least part of the time.
Challenges in the Summer Months
For the most part, creating a co-parenting schedule makes the process of moving a child from home to home much easier. However, the summer comes with an inherent lapse in routine. Most children are out of school, teenagers are working or engaging in summer extracurriculars, and family vacations need to be scheduled. It can be difficult to stick to the same co-parenting schedule that you had during the school year.
Children are also much more independent in the summertime. With warmer weather and the freedom of being out of school, many want to see friends and engage in new activities. This can severely impede your time with your children. It may also make certain aspects of your parenting agreement feel unfair.
Following the tips below will not eliminate these challenges. However, they can help you better navigate the complicated world of co-parenting in the summertime.
- Expect Compromise
Anticipating a change in your routine can help make it easier to handle. You should also expect to compromise on some of your rules or expectations for your children. Your child’s other parent may request an altered schedule to accommodate a vacation or special event. Although you may not want to comply, it is to your advantage and to your children’s benefit to compromise. Offering flexibility can significantly benefit these situations. It can also make your child’s other parent more likely to return the favor if you wish to alter the schedule at some point. This can also offer a more engaging and enriching summer for your children. If you have a blended family, you will likely face more compromises, and your flexibility is paramount.
If you have been co-parenting for a while, you are likely aware that communication is key to making the process work smoothly. This is especially true in the summer when schedules change and fluctuate. Be sure to talk with your co-parent about expectations and concerns for the summer. Always communicate when there is a change to the routine or normal activity.
- Plan Ahead
If you have a blended family in which the children go to multiple homes, it is imperative that you plan ahead. Try to keep an organized schedule and alert other co-parents of any changes far ahead of time. If you must make a last-minute change, communicate clearly with all others involved. If others request a last-minute change, exercise patience and compromise.
- Be Sentimental
Try to remember the fun you had as a child in the summer when your children ask to:
- Engage in activities with friends.
- Have more time with one parent or the other.
- Go on vacation.
- Spend time at camps and summer classes.
Remembering this perspective, as well as the memories that you made, can make the extra effort feel worth it.
Q: Do I Need to Go Through the Court to Go on Vacation?
A: In many cases, you do not need to seek court approval to make a small, temporary change to your custody agreement. For example, if you want to spend a week at a cabin with your children, you and your co-parent can reach a compromise for that week without legal help. However, if you want to make major changes, or have difficulty making a compromise with your co-parent, you may need to get court approval.
Q: Can I Change My Custody Schedule in the Summer?
A: Yes. The court generally outlines the amount of time the child needs to spend with each parent. However, it usually does not determine the specific schedule. As long as you adhere to the court-ordered portions of time with each parent, you and your co-parent can alter the schedule to fit your needs. For example, in the summer, you may find it easier to spend one week at each parent’s house rather than splitting the week in half.
Q: Do I Have to Agree to Let My Child Go on Vacation with Their Other Parent?
A: If your child’s other parent has custody, and wants to go on a small vacation within their allotted time, they are allowed to do so. However, you do not have to agree to major changes in the schedule if you so choose. In the summertime, it generally benefits everyone to be flexible. Nevertheless, you are under no legal obligation to compromise.
Q: Do I Need an Attorney for Custody Changes?
A: If you want to make fundamental changes to your custody agreement, you should hire an attorney. However, if you are looking to make small changes to the family schedule, legal help is usually not necessary. If you are unsure, you can always speak to your attorney to see what the rules are in your situation.
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