When a Visitation Schedule and Summer Plans Collide

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

Summer is a great time for the kids. School is out, they get to spend extended time with friends and go to summer camps. If parents are separated or divorced, summer is a time that the children may have extended visitation with their non-custodial parent. Many non-custodial parents really treasure this time, as it is one of the few occasions that they can spend a great deal of time with their children. Unfortunately, sometimes the other parent has different plans for the children. At New Direction Family Law, we see a great deal of conflict between parents arise over this precious summer time. A frequent, and somewhat complicated question that we are asked is: what happens when parents disagree over the children’s summer plans?

Parenting Plans Account for the Summer

Parenting plans almost universally account for summer. Of course there are exceptions for scenarios like an unfit or unavailable parent or where the parents have reached an agreement otherwise. But generally, courts will give ample visitation, such as extended summer visits to non-custodial parents.

Despite what the parenting plans says, life is fluid and plans change. For example, what if the custodial parent wants to take the children on an overseas vacation? Fortunately, parenting plans allow for parents to reach agreements to stray from the visitation schedule. So for parents who are able to co-parent in a healthy manner and still communicate well for the sake of the children, unusual summer plans can be settled by agreement. This could involve simply providing additional visitation or trading time to make up the difference. Ideally, the custodial parent will return the favor one day.

What if You Cannot Agree

It is not uncommon for parents to fail to reach an agreement about summer plans. A parent who is allowed extended summer visitation is understandably reluctant to give any of that precious time up. If there is a parenting plan in place, but parents cannot reach an agreement, a parent should speak with their attorney to see if it would be appropriate to seek a modification of the parenting plan. However, obtaining a modification is not a simple feat, because it requires a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.

What if a Parent Defies the Parenting Plan

Another common scenario occurs when a parent simply disregards the summer visitation provisions of a parenting plan. This could involve a range of situations like a custodial parent taking the child on a vacation or sending the child to a long summer camp instead of honoring summer visitation. We also see non-custodial parents who refuse to return the children at the end of their summer visitation period. If this happens, the other parent should consult with an attorney to seek enforcement of their parenting plan. The penalties for violating a court’s orders include a finding of contempt, which can bring fines and possible jail time in extreme situations.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

Child custody conflicts are hard on everyone. At New Direction Family Law, we have over two decades of experience guiding clients through this difficult process. Our team of professional, compassionate lawyers will fight for your rights and to serve your children’s best interest. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Contact our office today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.