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Summer usually means vacations, graduations, weddings and myriad summer activities. It can be an especially stressful time for divorced families. How do you keep children busy, entertained, structured and happy, all while juggling modified summer schedules?

This article offers tips to help you manage summer schedules in way that makes it easier on you, your ex and your kids.

With children home from school, they have a great deal of free time that needs to be scheduled. Keep in mind that your children’s needs will vary: some may benefit from camps or visits with relatives; others may need more one‑on-one time with parents to work through their feelings about the divorce.

It’s natural for one or both parents to feel anxious, too. Scheduling can be complicated and contentious, but it doesn’t need to be. Discussing it as a family and taking a sensible, objective approach will help you keep disagreements and uncertainty to a minimum.

Start early

Developing a schedule as early as possible allows you to

  • make arrangements for time off, child care or summer activities
  • ensure that both parents will have some time with the children over the summer
  • make appropriate travel plans and ensure that you have all required documents well in advance if you’re planning travel outside of Canada with your children

Review your existing parenting plan

Custody and access orders often lay out special arrangements for summer holidays. Your co-parenting plan may already address summer schedules. Therefore, any schedule you develop should align with what’s specified in your parenting plan.

Involve your children

When devising your summer schedule, your children may want a say: invite their input early on. Ask them how they’d like to spend their summer before reaching any final decisions. Be careful, however, not to force them to choose between parents: it’s unfair to put children in the middle.

Be logical and reasonable

Think about your schedule preferences. Sit down and plan out when you’d like time with your children. List any special events you’d like your kids to attend with you.

Discuss your schedule preferences with your ex and try to work out a schedule. You may want to involve a lawyer.

Be open and transparent

As you work through this process, ongoing, open communication with your ex is a must. If you work together, you can develop more fluid solutions than if your schedule were imposed by the court. If you’d like to spend time with your children on a particular weekend, let your ex know as soon as possible. You may need to give up one of your weekends to ensure you have an extended vacation with your kids.

Remember that it’s unreasonable to seek greater time with your kids if your custody or access order states how much time children should spend with each parent. Consider that long weekends should be divided fairly between parents.

Be detailed and clear

Being clear and meticulous will help you keep ambiguity and conflict to a minimum.

Specify which parent will pick up the children and drop them off. Be clear about when changeovers will take place. If possible, discuss the costs of children’s summer activities or other joint expenses such as tutors, memberships, lessons and activities. (Our companion article, Family law: child support and special expenses, may offer some tips.)

Once you’ve decided on the schedule, be sure your children are aware of these details.

Plan to have a great summer

Most families look forward to summer and to spending vacation together. Don’t let your divorce and any disagreements over access turn these anticipated months into tarnished experiences. By applying the tips and principles in this article, you can help to ensure successful scheduling. Remember, the scheduling decisions you make should be in your children’s best interest and promote ongoing, positive relationships with both you and your ex.

From all of us at Lift Legal, have a golden, memorable summer!

Mel Garbe

Mel founded Lift Legal with the goal of delivering cost effective legal services without sacrificing capability by effectively using modern tools to access the types of resources that larger law firms have access to. The result being that Lift Legal provides high level professional services at a greater value.

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