It seems like just yesterday the young kiddos were packing up for the first day of school! The two household family shared in excitement, apprehension and a sense of relief in anticipation of a return to a normal schedule. Now, excitement ranks high with the end of the school year, but so does the stress of an inconsistent routine.
It doesn’t have to be that way. At Ferraro Law Group, we strongly suggest building provisions into your custody and timesharing agreements to reduce tension and create consistency. Below are three tips for keeping the stress levels to a minimum:
1. Include Summer Camps and other extracurricular activities into your Divorce Agreement. In many cases, it is a good idea to split these costs based on the income percentages set forth in the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet that is filed in every case. If one parent makes 54% of their joint income, then that parent would be responsible for paying 54% of the cost of summer camp and extracurricular activities. Of course if that is not in your Agreement, then good luck getting reimbursement for anything! Additionally, besides just the cost, the shear number of summer camps, their locations and the time of day they cover are all relevant factors to consider in selecting which camps your kids will attend. It might be a good idea for one parent or the other to have decision making authority for this delicate scheduling process to avoid huge headaches and the potential for your child to miss a particular opportunity because of disagreement between the parents.
2. Set aside time for each parent to have a vacation with the children. Usually a week or two of uninterrupted time with the children will suffice. It is also a good idea to have a time frame for selecting the dates to be exercised each year, with each parent having first pick in alternating years. The parties should also decide on the front end what notice and conditions will be imposed on travel. Is it ok to go on a cruise or otherwise leave the country? Keep in mind that if you don’t want dad to take the kids out of the country, he’s probably not going to want you to have that opportunity either. Careful planning and language in your Agreement can help to ensure that your children have a well rounded childhood and can experience all that each of you are able to offer.
3. A right of first refusal to care for the children is often built into agreements so that if one parent goes out of town without the children, or works during their normal timesharing, the other has first choice to care for the kids during that time rather than a babysitter. This can often save the parents money, and the stress of lining up sitters throughout the summer – especially if one parent works and the other doesn’t. This can also help to avoid excessive time at the grandparents’ house when they could just as easily be spending time with you.
Check your stress at the car line, and get ready for a fabulous summer! Remember you only get maybe 12 of these and then they are gone! Good planning can help ensure that everyone benefits and no one has to spend their 4th of July week fighting in front of a judge.