By Jamie Kinkaid
Summer itself needs to be addressed individually to help give guidelines on how the visitation will occur and what the expectations are between the parties. (Read related article: "Planning Summer Vacations: Who Gets To Pick The Dates?")
Divorce attorneys often encourage parents to work together with the understanding that the parenting plan is there to provide clarification and avoid conflict.
The following suggestions are offered when working with a mens divorce lawyer in developing a parenting plan that will prevent future legal expenses and conflicts with the other parent:
When Does Summer Parenting Time Begin?
This is usually the first issue. Many orders will typically state, “Visitation is to occur from the period school releases…” When school is not in session, what time are you to pick up the children?
Although logic may say that it is when school normally releases, children can be located in different schools with different pick up times so would you pick up one kid at 2:30 pm and another kid at 3:30 pm?
It may seem picky, but with the animosity that may occur in these situations, it is best to have a time spelled out for all those involved. For instance, have your decree read, "Visitation is to occur from the time school releases on Friday or 3:30 p.m. when school is not in session."
Who Is Responsible For Transportation During Summer Parenting Time?
In summer, parents tend to enroll their children in camps, daycare, use a home sitter, etc. Having a location identified for the actually pick-up and drop-off also keeps the parties from acting inappropriately or spiteful, just to cause strife with the other parent.
Forcing a parent to drive 45 miles or constantly changing the location creates hard feelings and results in one of the parties, along with the children, suffering through the experience.
A helpful recommendation is adding a statement in every order such as "the parties will meet at a mutually agreed upon location. In the event they cannot agree, the parent initiating parenting time will pick the children up from Gas Station XYZ located at ______. The parent then concluding visitation will pick the children up from ___."
Other clauses can include a point halfway between the party’s residences or their respective employers, within 1 mile of the school, at the home of the parent, or any other location that would be equitable. You can be as creative as you like, but keep it reasonable and simple, with an identified location. This will prevent unnecessary driving and arguing.
Our society is highly mobile, and many parents will take their children on extended vacations out of the country if the opportunity presents itself.
Unless the order states otherwise, the parent planning the vacation can take the child anywhere they please. Numerous calls are made to divorce attorneys regarding taking a child out of the country to visit somewhere.
If a parent has a legitimate concern that the opposing party will abscond with the child from the United States making retrieval incredibly difficult, then this should be addressed prior to the entry of your final order. Asking that an order state, "neither party shall remove the child from the United States" or "neither party shall remove the child from the jurisdiction of this court," is not unheard of.
Out-of-country travel time limits are also often included in an order, such as "neither party will remove the child from the jurisdiction of this court for a period of longer than 3 days without the written permission of the other parent."
In the event your separation and parenting plan were amicable, parents usually have no problem handing over an itinerary of their planned vacation. This itinerary includes at least the location of the child and a phone number where they can be reached.
Your divorce attorney can put the requirement that each parent will provide such information, spelling out exactly what the information is and when it should be provided, for your summer parenting schedule.
However, a requirement to include an itinerary is not carte blanche to follow the other party or dictate what can or cannot be done with the child. The argument surrounding an itinerary typically arises in situations where the relationship is not amicable, and the party who does not want to provide the itinerary is either afraid or angry for any number of reasons.
Letting the opposing party know how to contact your child in the event of an emergency and a general location is a courtesy. This is primarily for safety and emergency purposes and should not be used as a tool to harass the opposing party during their vacation time.
Planning Summer Extracurricular Activities
There are many opportunities for children during the summer months. Whether it is sports, camps, youth programs, etc., a parent may want to enroll a child in one of these activities.
A provision in your order that may prevent issues and/or altercations regarding the enrollment of the child in activities may include, “One parent may not plan or schedule activities during the parenting time of the other parent without reasonable advance notice and consent of the other parent in writing.”
By operating under this provision, you do not need to change your parenting plan for every activity your child is enrolled when both parties can follow the order without question.
Parenting plans and final orders can be as detailed as you see fit. The more detailed the parenting plan is, the less issues that can inevitably occur in the future.
By having a qualified mens divorce lawyer, such as the attorneys at Cordell & Cordell, properly draft a parenting plan, you can ensure you reduce the possibility of future legal expenses and arguments.