Follow These Co-Parenting Tips for Single Parents Seeking a Stress-Free Summer.
I developed this post to help parents and their family lawyers plan for the slew of legal co-parenting complications the summer might bring. Without the structure of school, even the tightest co-parenting plans face challenges.
Whether an uncoupling was friendly or not, it takes a concerted effort to find what works for each couple to co-parent successfully. Though every situation is different, and there is no recipe to guarantee positive family outcomes, this is practical advice from our family law firm for handling the legal aspects of these commonly-faced issues.
1) Communication is Key
Arranging a vacation is often a task that causes most to need a vacation! But, for separated, divorced, or single parents, planning a vacation for themselves and their children can be grueling.
Typically single parents have a custody agreement which serves as a parenting plan. However, the agreement may have been vague concerning vacations. Or, parents may not have their agreements finalized yet.
Unfortunately, co-parenting issues stemming from vacations typically present themselves at the last minute, after planning the getaway but communicating it to the other parent for the first time.
2) The Five Ws for Co-Parenting
To offer some co-parenting tips, we've tied vacation planning to these familiar "Five Ws":
When making vacation plans, parents must communicate early and often. Communication helps avoid any last-minute quarreling over changes. Some families start this process as early as March.
While communication between parents is crucial, kids should be left out of the arranging. The kids don't need to know WHO made special requests, WHO made unnecessary denials, or WHO spent more money. They just need to know that their parents worked hard for them so that they can enjoy their summers.
All vacation provisions and plans should be agreed upon and put in writing as soon as possible to avoid conflict. Parents should also share detailed vacation itineraries, or essentially, WHAT is happening on the trip. It must be a provision that you provide the non-attending parent with all details around accommodation, travel times, and activities so they feel at ease.
When considering what type of vacation to take, each parent should try to put themselves in the other's shoes. If one would be uncomfortable with a particular activity or accommodation, they shouldn't do anything similar when it's their turn for a trip.
Quick Tip: Cost is another important consideration when choosing a vacation. Parents must be realistic financially when it comes to vacation selection. Parents may have half the resources they had pre-split, and regardless of what's customary to the children or what the other parent can afford, they need to choose a vacation that is within their means.
Considering finances is also motivation to keep vacation planning peaceful – when parents disagree, they may spend significant funds paying family lawyers or mediators.
Family lawyers have the opportunity to prevent disputes by setting clear parameters in the parenting plan or custody agreement.
Every family is different and every divorce has its own unique spot on the amicable to nasty scale. So, each plan should be customized but clear to avoid any possible confusion down the road.
Some plans can be very specific WHEN each parent get which dates, such as Mom gets the third week in June, and Dad gets the third week in July. Others may just state that each parent gets one week, and dates must be finalized and communicated by a certain date.
Quick Tip: Parents should do their best to stick to the schedule. However, if they wish to deviate or don't have the plan outlined for any reason, respectful conversations should begin as soon as possible.
Everyone enjoys dreaming about WHERE they may go on their next vacation. But, for divorced and single parents, it's vital to be informed before the mind starts to wander.
If you have the means to travel outside of the country for vacation, there are specific rules regarding passports for children of divorce. Both parents must give consent before a passport is used for any child under the age of 16 unless one parent was granted sole custody- then only the custodial parent's signature is required. It is possible to get a passport without the signature of both parents but only for the child's health or a special family circumstance – not a vacation.
Quick Tip: Parents who cannot get their former spouse's support should contact a family law attorney. The most common course of action is petitioning the court to order the ex to sign the application. Parents on the opposing end should also reach out to their family lawyer after refusing to sign. It would be best if you communicated fears about abduction to family lawyers and the court.
Parents should be considerate, thoughtful, and respectful with their children's feelings in mind. Family lawyers should also have the same children-first mentality to guide families toward the best possible outcomes.
Quick Tip: When vacation planning gets stressful, it's to remember the reason for vacationing in the first place. Vacations should bring families closer together – not farther apart!
3) The Best Co-Parenting Tip!
The key to successful co-parenting is separating the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. Think of your relationship with your ex as new. Focus on the well-being of your children and not either of you.
Your marriage may be over, but your family is not. So it's critical to act in your kids' best interest -- always put their needs ahead of yours.