As we enter the “dog days of summer” and New England braces for a serious heat wave over the next few days, I can’t help but think about the importance of summer parenting plans. Summer is when most parents try to maximize the time they spend with their children. Free from the demands of school, homework, and most extracurricular activities, summer is an optimum time to enjoy quality time with children, especially school aged children. I recently saw a quote that said “there are only eighteen summers in childhood . . . How will you make this one count?”

As summer time with children is so fleeting and precious, summer parenting time can become a hot button issue in a divorce. When crafting a summer parenting plan, the best interest of the children should be at the forefront in setting the parenting schedule, and this generally entails maximizing the children’s time with both parents.

Summer parenting plans can take on many different forms. Some parents share time equally in the summer with their children. Some parents continue to observe the school year parenting plan with slight tweaks to allow for long weekends or vacation weeks. There are a myriad of different varieties of summer parenting plans as every family situation is different. Typically, divorce agreements or judgments call for each parent to have a set number of consecutive or non-consecutive weeks of summer vacation time with the children. The agreement or judgment may also provide for which parent gets to pick his or her summer vacation weeks first in any given year.

Other things to take into consideration in setting a summer parenting plan are camps and travel arrangements. Most day and sleep away camps require registrations to be submitted in the early spring. Open communication regarding camp schedules and working cooperatively to set vacation weeks around camp schedules will reduce acrimony, which almost always results in better outcomes for children.

It is also important to remember that when making travel arrangements for summer travel, itineraries, contact information, addresses and phone numbers should be provided to the other parent. Travel itineraries should be provided as soon as possible, but generally no less than seven (7) days prior to travel, more if traveling internationally. Some travel companies, including airlines and cruise companies, will require written documentation stating that the other parent assents to the children’s travel. Being aware of the requirements of your divorce agreement and/or judgment, the requirements of any travel companies you are working with and keeping the other parent in the loop will reduce problems and alleviate travel stress.

A skilled divorce attorney can help craft a summer parenting plan that meets the needs of the children and parents and ensures quality time and fond memories made.