Summer fun, custody challenges

Summer break is here and that means spending more time with your children at home or on vacation. While this is something most parents look forward to, it may also cause issues if you have to figure out how to share your children with an ex-spouse or former partner. Some families in New York need different custody arrangements during the summer than they do during the school year. But setting up a new parenting plan and transitioning to the new schedule can take a bit of effort.

What changes do you need? When should they start? When should they end? These are all great questions that both parents will need to discuss.

What changes do you need?

Every family has different summer routines. Some stay home and do things around town, while others take long vacations in order to see new sites or visit family. Who will be taking children during this time?

Do you want to trade off summers? Will you each get a few straight weeks, or will you alternate weeks or days? These are all issues you can discuss before making your initial custody agreement so that you have a set, legally enforceable schedule. If, however, you experience a change in circumstances, you may need to come up with a new agreement on the fly -- so to speak. This is something you and your child's other parent can negotiate privately, or, if you want the change to be permanent, you can seek a formal custody modification.

When should the summer schedule start?

This is something that only you and your child's other parent can decide. Some like to start their summer custody plans as soon as school is out. As this date may change every year, though, others like to set a specific day -- such as Memorial Day. This may make it easier for making summer plans.

When should the summer custody agreement end?

Again, the best option is for you and your co-parent to negotiate this. Some parents may want it to extend until the first day or school; others will want to get their children back on their school schedule a week or more in advance of school starting.

What if one spouse refuses to stick to the summer custody schedule?

If the custody order includes the summer custody plan, it is possible to have the offending parent held in contempt of court if he or she refuses to follow the plan. If the custody order does not include summer arrangements, however, one may go to court to request an order adjustment.

Get help creating a summer plan that works for your family

Creating parenting plans that work for everyone takes compromise. Unfortunately, sometimes it is difficult to come to agreeable terms. This is where an experienced family law attorney or parenting coach can help. With assistance, parents will be able to create summer custody arrangements that work for their schedule changes and allow them to enjoy as much time with their children as possible.