Many years ago the alternate residential parent, often the father, would have visitation with the children every other weekend, split up the holidays and receive a couple of weeks’ time for vacation in the summer. That is no longer the case here in middle Tennessee.

A judge’s job is to do what is in the best interest of children of divorcing parents. The controlling law, however, tells judges that they are to maximize the time of each divorcing parent with their children. But what does maximizing time mean?

Regular overnight visitation is critical to developing and maintaining the appropriate parental relationship with a child. Every other weekend, and even an overnight on alternate weeks in the middle of the week is simply not sufficient. Over the past decade the law has evolved to catch up with the joint role that many parents play in the lives of their children.

First, it is not uncommon for courts to permit the alternate residential parent to have a three-night weekend rather than a two-night weekend. This means the weekend may start on Thursday after school and end Sunday afternoon. It may start on Friday after school and end when the child or children return to school on Monday morning.

Second, it is now quite normal for the parents to split spring and fall breaks and other holidays, rather than for the primary residential parent to have the children during all of those different times. It is wise to set up a schedule which alternates yearly in terms of which parent receives the child or children during spring break, fall break and the holidays.

But what about summertime? As mentioned above, traditionally the non-residential parent would get a week or two weeks’ vacation time with the children over the summer and that would be it. This is no longer the norm, however.

It is quite common for the parents to change the visitation schedule with their children over the summer months. Oftentimes, parents will move to a week-on/week-off schedule over the summer, thereby maximizing parenting time that each parent has with the children during the summertime, which may be referred to as the “golden time.”

Why is the summertime the golden time? During the school year there is homework. Children are involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, school clubs, etc. The school year time can be very hectic.

Things tend to slow down for children a bit in the summer. First and foremost, they don’t have school. This means not only are the children not rushed out the door first thing in the morning, they also do not have homework concerns in the afternoon and evening. Even though many children participate in summer camps, the camp schedules tend to be much more relaxed compared to the rigidity of the school mandates.

The above means summertime may be a much more relaxing time for a parent and child. Events and time together can be planned in a way that is simply not available during the school year. The summertime, thus, may be more valuable than other times with that same child throughout the school year.

It is very important, therefore, in structuring a parenting schedule to keep the value, and possibilities, of summertime in mind, particularly if you are the alternate residential parent rather than the primary residential parent.