With summer underway, it's a good time to address some of parents' concerns regarding visitation rights, including the duration, scheduling and location of the visitation. Here are five important issues you should consider to make sure summer visitations are executed in accordance with the court order regarding your child's custody:
- Splitting up a summer visitation period: Whether you are required to take your four or six weeks of summer visitation in a row or can split them depends on the language in your parenting plan. If the agreement stated, for example, "four consecutive weeks," the visitation must take place in one four-week time period. If it is not specified, you and the other parent can make an agreement about how the weeks are allotted.
- Taking children out of the country: If you are not comfortable with the other parent taking a vacation outside the country with your child during summer visitation, it is best to discuss the situation with your attorney. If your custody agreement doesn't have physical location restrictions, and you can't reach a compromise, the court can intervene and dictate the process, taking into consideration your child's best interests. Of note, most airlines will not allow minors to travel with a single parent to a different country without signed consent from the other parent.
- Making up for missed holidays with extra time in the summer: Sometimes the other parent will want their summer visitation period to be extended because they had to cancel other scheduled visitation. You are not obligated to grant that request. It is each parent's responsibility to use their scheduled time or seek a modification of the custody agreement. If you are on good terms and your children want a longer visit, you have discretion to grant extra time.
- Helping your child with conflicting summer plans: If your child wants to go on vacation with a friend or participate in another activity (such as camp) during summer visitation with the non-custodial parent, try working together to rearrange the schedule. If need be, file with the court to modify the schedule, but be aware the court often will prioritize your child's time with his or her parent over friends, unless there are extenuating or unique circumstances.
- Balancing work with your visitation agreement: If you aren't the custodial parent and you're having difficulty keeping to the schedule in your custody agreement, you may need to ask to alter the schedule. Sometimes job hours or days change or other obligations arise. Either through the court or mediation, you can seek to modify the schedule so it fits with the changing demands in your life.
Have questions about your parenting plan? Speak with a family law attorney to get answers tailored to your specific circumstances.