As the school year ends, many parents anticipate summer vacation and its more relaxed schedule. But for others, the summer break can be more trouble than it’s worth, as parents must deal with ex-spouses, stepparents, and extended family. With a little planning, you make your summer more enjoyable — for both your kids and those who share in their care.
Typically, a noncustodial parent has more time with his or her child during the summer months when school is not in session. Some parents go so far as to alternate weeks in the summer and, at a minimum, the noncustodial or alternate residential parent usually has two extra weeks of parenting time with his/her child(ren) to allow for vacations. This change in the schedule can create conflict, if parents, stepparents, and other caregivers refuse to work together.
Remember, summer plans should be about the children. Regardless of the terms of your parenting order, keep the focus on your kids and the fun they will have during vacations and extra time with the other parent. Children typically want to spend time with both parents and enjoy the ease of summer. Refusing to be reasonable and accommodating for flights, travel schedules, or transportation by the stepparents is petty and will be viewed as unreasonable by most courts.
Everyone has busy schedules; yours is not the only one. Travel arrangements can be difficult to fit within a certain window of time, so don’t punish your ex over things he or she cannot control.
It takes two to tango.
By the same token, if you are the parent arranging vacations or travel, it is not reasonable to expect the custodial parent to just drop everything and cater to your demands when you provide short notice. Plan ahead and work together. As an attorney who practices family law exclusively, I see many parents who end up in litigation because of poor planning and a lack of communication. If you cannot talk to your ex-spouse over the phone, use text messaging and email. Keep a respectful tone and be prompt. This will also allow you to keep a record of communication in the event a parent or ex-spouse is being unreasonable.
The stepparent dynamic.
Often, the summer creates scenarios where children are spending large amounts of time with a stepparent because the other parent is working during the day. This is not the end of the world. It gives the stepparent and child an opportunity to grow closer.
I am not suggesting that all stepparents are perfect, but this is an area rife with conflict. My suggestion is simple: Don’t let the children get control and manipulate the situation. To the extent possible, children need to see a unified front. If you are on the same page with parents and stepparents, children will quickly realize they are not going to be able to play one parent against the other.
Remember, too, that they will follow your lead. If you bash a stepparent constantly, they will not respect that person, or alternatively, they may lose respect for you if their feelings about the stepparent are positive.
Here’s to creating a more enjoyable and harmonious summer. Remember, it’s up to you.
The Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC focuses on family law in Tennessee and Mississippi. For information, call 537-0010 or visit thomasfamilylaw.net.