At the risk of repeating ourselves… think “lots of variables.”
Summer and vacations, as with all other provisions of the best possible custody agreement from the get-go, should be very specific in order to reduce and hopefully eliminate any conflict associated with them. All we want to be able to do is plan without interference.
Our primary recommendation in a 50/50 custody arrangement that is “week-on/week-off” or 7/7 is fairly straightforward. Parent – plan your vacations during your custodial weeks. That’s it. This is what you do in order to minimize the potential for high conflict. In this situation, there is no need to alter to accommodate “the summer” generally. You have a shared-parenting agreement/order.
When your 50-50 arrangement is of the 5/2/2/5 variety, you may have some more flexibility to write into your agreement unless you are inclined to simply take vacation during one of your “5” periods. One recommendation would be to write into your vacation clause that in order to accommodate a week-long vacation period, the schedule will change to a 7/7 and then revert back to 5/2/2/5 for each parent’s respective vacation plans. There should be a reasonable amount of notice for the vacation periods and we suggest 30-days written advanced notice of the intention to take vacations in such a scenario. In this situation, there is no need to alter to accommodate “the summer” generally. You have a shared-parenting agreement/order.
The most preparedness and available options comes with the classic primary-custodial/secondary-custodial parenting arrangement. When you’re an NCP, the summer is the time of year you will have the most opportunity to maximize your custody time. This arrangement will necessitate a change from the common school-year custodial arrangement of the NCP having every other weekend and a dinner (or overnight) during the week. If your classic CP/NCP arrangement is a long-distance one – the summer is about the only time you’ll have left to obtain meaningful custody time.
Remember, our goal here is to maximize your custody time with the target being shared parenting (absent issues of parental fitness or other potentially dangerous circumstances for the children). Options to consider (and discuss more in depth on the forums or via email for your specific situation):
- Our top recommendation = reversing the school year custodial arrangement. The primary custodian has every-other-weekend and a dinner visit/overnight during the week with an allowance for 1 or 2 weeks for them to take vacations (with notice). For long-distance situations, the secondary custodian has the children for the full summer with vacation allowances for the primary custodian.
- A 50-50 custodial summer arrangement using the 7/7 or 5/2/2/5 methodologies. Consider even using a 14/14 arrangement. Vacation periods, with notice, would be handled as previously written above.
- If logistics or some other issues necessitate less time than described above, you plan for the longest possible period of uninterrupted parenting time, for instance 4-weeks or 6-weeks.
- Be specific regarding transportation, times and places, what happens if someone is late, etc
- Be specific about what information will be shared regarding where children will be during vacation, address, phone, arrival time, flights, etc
- Be specific about how much contact you would like to have while your children are traveling, remember the contact goes both ways, so be reasonable.
- If children will be traveling out of the country, think about who should have the passports if you are worried about your ex leaving the country with the children. Attorneys can be responsible for storing passports until needed, and retrieve them once vacation is over, so their client is less likely to not return.