Navigating Summer Parenting Time

Determining a summer parenting time schedule is an important factor to consider when negotiating a custody and parenting time plan. While the regular parenting time schedule may remain in place over the summer months, adjustments could be necessary depending upon the needs of a particular family. Children may participate in summer camps, whether it be day or overnight camp, sports, or other activities, which may impact the regular parenting time, and/or drop-off and pick-up designations. Parent should do their best to remain flexible during the summer months in this regard.

In certain circumstances, the summer parenting time schedule should differ from the schedule throughout the school year. For example, if one parent lives a substantial distance away from the children or in a different state, the summer is typically the time when that parent can spend a significant amount of time with them.

            Additionally, it is generally believed that it is in a child’s best interest to be able to spend vacation time with both parents. Any parenting time agreement should detail how many days the parties may exercise for vacation time with the child(ren), which should be equal barring any exigent circumstances. The length of a vacation may vary depending upon a child’s age. Longer trips, i.e., more than one (1) week, may not be acceptable to the parents until the child is older. It is a general consensus that young children should not be away from either parent for an extended period of time. Some parents agree that upon a certain age, they will be able to travel with the children for longer periods of time.

Custody and parenting time agreements, or provisions within a marital settlement agreement as to parenting time, usually provide specific guidelines for parents to follow when planning vacations. Each parent must provide sufficient notice of a planned vacation (for example, thirty (30) days for domestic travel and sixty (60) days for international travel); each parent must provide a full itinerary as soon as reasonably possible, including but not limited to flight information, if any, hotel/lodging accommodations, planned activities, or any other important information depending upon the nature of the trip.

Each party should also have reasonable access to the children while they are traveling with the other party. This communication should not interfere with the vacation, however. Both parties should cooperate in obtaining or renewing a child’s passport. Consent to renew or obtain a passport, and for travel, should not be unreasonably withheld.

If there is a disagreement as to which days/weeks each parent may travel with the child(ren), the agreements typically provide that one parent’s preference will prevail in the odd years and that the other parent’s will prevail in the even years.

While vacation time trumps regular parenting time, a recent question has arisen, especially due to the pandemic, as to whether a “staycation” qualifies as vacation and whether a parent is required to travel with the children in order to exercise vacation time. From one point of view, the parties should be able to exercise their vacation time however they see fit. The “vacationing parent” may want to utilize those days to spend quality time with the children or take day trips during that week.

From the other point of view, if the “vacationing parent” does not take off of work to spend time with the children, it may not make sense for them to be at that parent’s house. The parties’ intent has to a “staycation” should be clearly defined and outlined in a settlement agreement.

The above considerations are only a few issues that should be considered and addressed in a parenting time schedule. Should you have any questions or require any further details, please contact our matrimonial department.