Shared custody is now the most common post-divorce parenting arrangement, which means divorced parents also share responsibility for planning their kids’ summer breaks.
The school year flies by, so before you know it, your children will be home for the summer—and your normal routine goes out the window. A special summer timesharing plan must go into effect.
Will you and your co-parent choose to 2-2-3, week-on/week-off, or something different? When developing a summer parenting plan, hiccups may arise over vacation, family reunions, and the like.
You can lessen the risk of these disagreements by working out a plan for summer timesharing in advance. Keep reading to learn how to create a summer parenting plan that works for all parties involved.
All families are familiar with how the hustle and bustle of summer break changes their daily schedules. However, when co-parenting, these changes become more drastic and concrete.
If you want to develop a timesharing plan that gives your children a relaxing break while creating the least amount of family stress, you must start with the custody schedule laid out in your court order. Use this as a guide to filling out a monthly calendar according to when the children are with you instead of the other parent.
Your divorce settlement may also layout who the children will spend various holidays with throughout the year. More often than not, the holidays rotate or alternate. The plans are set up this way so that if dad gets Memorial Day, the mom gets the Fourth of July, and so on. You must also account for Father’s Day and any birthdays that occur during the break.
You’ll also need to take note of how much summer parenting time is allocated to each parent. For example, if you are a non-custodial parent that lives far away, you may have extended parenting time in the summer.
Take these dates into account because these are the ones you’ll need to plan around. If your co-parent is entitled to eight of ten weeks of summer break, but with flexible dates, this gives you the room you need to plan a family vacation.
A lot of thought goes into setting a summer co-parenting schedule, so it’s best to start planning early. Remember, you’re planning around more than just your own schedule.
If you are proactive about setting the schedule earlier, you can take the potential stress out of determining schedules. Do this right, and you’re more likely to increase the bonds your children have with you and their other parent.
Plus, planning vacations earlier is just smarter—you can take advanced of reduced prices for plan trips, accommodations, and the like.
First, take a look at what your personal calendar has on it for the summer. Are there any work or social plans that could affect summer timesharing?
Make sure to jot down any important dates now. These might include a family reunion you want to take the kids to or a conference for work out of town. Finalizing your personal schedule will allow you to work out potential future swaps if needed.
Also, check out your childrens’ activity schedules. Look for birthday parties, sports games, or other events you know they wish to attend.
Will you want to attend any of these as well?
There may be some events you’ll attend alone, but others you will together. Discuss this with your co-parent and work out an arrangement that allows you both to be as involved as possible.
Once you’ve considered your personal schedule as well as your children’s, you can arrange to speak with your co-parent about your ideal summer parenting plan.
It’s important not to spring this on your kids’ other parent. Give them advanced notice, so they have a chance to come up with a list of their own needs and preferences.
You both must know the difference between preferences and absolutes, especially when a day would fall outside of one parent’s scheduled days.
When allocating summer parenting time, both of you need to agree to modifications and exceptions for the benefit of the children.
If it’s your year to have the kids on Memorial Day, but your co-parent’s family is hosting a reunion that day, your kids may benefit from exchanging that holiday for another that fits into your plan.
When discussing these types of scheduled changes, strive to keep the amount of parenting time the same for each parent. If you ask for three extra days for a beach vacation, find three days you can give back somewhere else to offset the change.
It’s fun to plan vacations, especially when kids are involved. As you ask your children what they’d like to do for the summer, don’t make premature promises.
Your kids will undoubtedly be excited about some of the potential plans. However, your job as a co-parent is to make sure they know that the plans are tentative until the other parent agrees. Nothing is certain until this happens.
And if your kids are excited about a plan that your ex-partner shoots down, don’t blame your ex or make it seem like they have the last word. This can be considered alienation or lead to resentment.
Now that you know what to consider when determining summer timesharing plans, how do you put one into practice? Here are some examples of summer schedules when co-parenting children.
One of the most common ways of approaching summer break is keeping the regular schedule through the summer months. In this arrangement, the children remain with the custodial parent. Usually, the parents will each have an opportunity to have extended, uninterrupted time (usually two or three weeks).
This schedule is popular as it’s not as disruptive to the kids’ routine. It might also be preferable to stick with the schedule to align with the parent’s work schedules. If both parents frequently see the children throughout the school year, there may not be a need for a separate summer arrangement.
A common issue with this schedule is that it can be difficult to manage when parents have to work, and kids aren’t at school all day.
Planning summer camps, daycare, and vacations can then be complicated and lead to disagreements between parents.
Another arrangement to consider is a week-on-week-off schedule where children alternate weeks with their parents throughout the summer. This is a good schedule if you and your co-parent live near each other and both have good relationships with your children.
The benefits of this schedule include equal time for parents, which is healthy for most children. It’s also an easy schedule for all to follow, and there is less back and forth. There is less risk for scheduling conflicts and plenty of opportunities for each parent to plan a vacation.
However, sometimes this is a difficult schedule for working parents. Making camp or daycare arrangements every other week can be complicated, overwhelming, and expensive. If you’re concerned about this, consider a 2-week on and 2-week off agreement instead.
If you and your ex live in different locations, consider an arrangement where the non-custodial parent exercises most of their timesharing during summer break. Since they’re away from the children most of the school year, visitation is limited. Giving them most of the summer is often an amicable way to approach timesharing over summer break.
Giving one parent a large portion of the summer break allows for the additional time needed to strengthen bonds with their children. It also helps children adapt to new environments and a faraway home from the other parent. They can take the time they need to settle in without the burden of school-related activities and stress.
However, the custodial parent often has difficulty with this arrangement as they’re away from their children for long periods. And for the non-custodial parent, it can seem difficult to maintain a relationship after only sporadically seeing their child during the other times of the year.
The 2-2-3 schedule is best for parents who want to exercise long weekends during summer break. In this arrangement, or you have the children for two days, the other has them for the next two days, and then the kids go back to the first parent for a long, three-day weekend.
This works because each parent enjoys two days with the children during the workweek and has a long weekend with the children every other weekend.
Many co-parents enjoy this two-week rotating schedule because they get to have equal time with the children. Yes, there is more switching back and forth, but if the parents live close to each other and the children don’t mind the changes, this may be an attractive arrangement for your family.
The 3-4-4-3 schedule is another 50/50 schedule that includes your children staying with one of you for three days a week and then the other four days. It alternates each week so that you may have the child for four days and your co-parent has them for three.
Parents enjoy the same nights with their children each week—except for the one that occurs on the exchange day.
This is a great schedule because there are minimal exchanges, and children get to spend an ample amount of time with both parents each week. It’s also favored because each parent has equal time with the children and can assist in daily caretaking.
The children benefit from this arrangement because they don’t go long between exchanges. This schedule can work very well for your family if you and your co-parent have different work schedules.
It depends on which day of the week this schedule starts, but in some cases, one parent may have the children every weekend. When a schedule includes a midweek change, you must communicate well about daycare and summer activities.
Don’t go into a conversation with your co-parent about an alternate summer schedule blind. Here are some additional tips to ensure the conversation goes smoothly.
While you might have your own hopes and plans for your children’s summer break, it doesn’t mean your co-parent doesn’t. If they want to plan a vacation with the kids, show them the same courtesy you expect from them. Be flexible!
Yes, compromise means you may not get the exact time you wanted or as much as you usually receive, but always consider accepting this in exchange for your wish list.
Of course, the structure helps determine who will have the kids when, but be flexible with that structure to accommodate activity or travel plans that your co-parent or the children may have.
The more advanced planning you engage in and the more willing you are to be flexible and work with your co-parent, the better your summer schedule will be.
When planning changes to your custody schedule, it’s essential to keep all lines of communication open—this applies to everyone involved.
Just because you’re on vacation with your children doesn’t mean they should be unable to speak to your co-parent. You may not purposefully interfere or prevent the child’s communications, but be aware that it can seem this way. Just make sure you’re encouraging involvement on both sides.
A common example of this is a parent taking their children out of the country for vacation and not bothering to purchase a cell phone plan that allows for international calling.
Your co-parent could take this scenario to court and use it as an example of you interfering with them speaking to your children, which is a type of parental alienation. The other parent can use this against you when modifying a parenting plan in the future.
Summer vacations are special—even magical—to children. You’ve committed to co-parenting your child with your ex, and that involves working together to create schedules that satisfy everyone in the family.
Whether you decide on the 2-2-3, week-on-week-off, or another arrangement, do it together so that you can ensure smooth planning and a summer that’s enjoyable for all. If you’re new to co-parenting and just navigating this for the first time, this co-parenting guide may help.
Create a parenting schedule