SUMMERTIME, VACATION AND VISITATION Take care of luggage, not baggage …

By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT

Most of us look forward to summertime and vacations with our children. So, why is it that divorce can turn the golden months into tarnished experiences? Aside from the too often intrusive emotional baggage, divorce brings an abundance of add-on complications.

Work schedules and childcare are impacted with children out of school. Non-traditional school years need to be taken into account with vacation planning for two households. Conflicts in schedules and other commitments of parents burden vacation planning. Parents must also consider accommodating opportunities for children and their friends (i.e., spending time with friends and their families).

Two key principles in the law (and in common sense) are for decisions to be in the best interests of the child and promoting an ongoing and continuous relationship with each parent. Keeping these principles in mind is key toward their achievement. In addition, parents benefit from good communication, a willingness to be flexible, and thoughtful planning.

Custody agreements can’t predict all the changes that affect families. Schools may switch from traditional to year-round schedules. Convenient vacation scheduling for one parent may affect the other parent’s scheduled time. Children out of school may shift childcare needs from parent availability or after-school care to alternate arrangements (more parent availability, other family members, day-care, nanny, etc.). Children are sometimes invited to join other families and friends on vacation. Sometimes it is a family that only one parent may know. Some tips for smoothing the bumps include:

  • Use a calendar that accounts for known commitments in planning for the summer
  • Each parent should include the other in decision making to assure a sense of safety and security for parents and children
  • Each parent should have access to people that will be responsible for their children’s safety
  • Be flexible and understanding through discussion, mutual consideration and adequate planning
  • Attitude! Attitude! Attitude! Nothing breeds success more than goodwill between parents.

The bottom line is that summertime can be a time for fun and relaxation when thoughtful advanced planning is utilized. Although unexpected conflicts can arise, taking some time now can prevent stress and anxiety later. Attitude and flexibility are the keys to successfully negotiating a reasonable schedule.

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