All year round, parenting presents challenges in every family, especially summer vacation plans. In New Jersey, it is assumed that children deserve the benefit of having both parents involved and that "it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing in order to effect this policy.” N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Your family will enjoy summertime more if both parents plan for your children’s vacations with each parent or all parts of the child's family.
First look at dates and events that are happening on dates that you do not control, like birthdays, July 4th, Labor Day, graduations, or other special family events. If you hope to modify your existing schedule to be with your child for any of these dates, ask now. Check the dates for camps or other activities that are part of your child’s summer plans. Be sure you know the scope of your financial obligations for those costs as well.
If there are rules in a written agreement or Court order about who gets the first choice of vacation weeks, and deadlines for providing vacation information, respect those rules. Plan, and share those plans, with each other as soon as possible (i.e., now) to ensure that everyone involved will know what the summer will look like and to give you time to resolve any conflicts. Even better, although your agreement may be to choose vacations by a date certain, provide the information to your co-parent as soon as you know it. That means sending travel information to your co-parent, directly, not through your children. Full travel information includes flight numbers and flight times, AirBNB locations, hotel names, and phone numbers, not just cell phone numbers. Remember that cell phones may not work reliably or as expected in a foreign country.
Avoid competition with one another in making summer vacation plans. Trying to outdo each other with extravagant plans creates antagonism between parents and puts your children in the middle. Similarly, make the vacation away from you as easy for your child as you can. Help your child pack for the time away. Include essentials like prescription medications, glasses, retainers, rubber bands for braces, summer reading requirements, sunscreen, special stuffed animals, favorite toys, clothing appropriate for the weather, and personal care items. If your child will be traveling, consider your child’s needs and take the extra moment to pack children's pain reliever, dental floss, water shoes, or other important items, even if you feel that your co-parent should know to pack these items. Address concerns about medication, sunscreen, or routine with your co-parent in advance, not during the vacation.
The family law team at Cohn Lifland wants you to enjoy the summer, especially if you will be resuming traditional activities or traveling for the first time after a separation or divorce. We know the challenges you will face, including logistics to emotional touchpoints. Summertime can be less stressful if both parents make an effort; start now, be fair, and have fun. If you have questions about your summer schedule, contact us at any time.