Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Tips for splitting custody during the summer

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Margie: It is summertime, which means of course the kids are home from school. For divorced parents, it can mean some scheduling problems. Family law attorney Jonathan Marks with The Marks Law Firm is here this morning with ways to avoid some of those conflicts. Good morning to you.

Jonathan: Good morning, Margie.

Margie: Yeah, I’m talking through my cold here this morning. You know, most people have this in their parenting plan, what they’re going to do over summer, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any problems that arise.

Jonathan: Right, and most parenting plans should divide it up that you’re either alternating week-to-week, every two weeks, or you’re following your normal school year schedule, but you’ve set aside usually about two to four weeks to block out some vacation time for you and your children.

Margie: Yeah, one of the problems that could arise is camps. Some of these camps run, you know, every week, some are every other week, and depending on when the parents have them, it can cause a problem.

Jonathan: Yeah, and so that’s a twofold problem. First is the scheduling. If you’re doing the vacation aspect of it, making sure that you’re not enrolling some child in a camp where they’re not even going to be able to attend because they then have to go on the vacation when the other parent designates their custody weeks. The other aspect of it is is the cost associated with it. If somebody blocks out one week for vacation but it turns out they’re going to a four-week camp, the parent is still going to probably end up paying for that full camp time, even though the child is not going to be able to attend all four weeks.

Margie: Yeah, it gets even more complicated with multiple children because they could have a camp here, there, and they’re all different times.

Jonathan: Exactly. So when you have different ages of the children, you have to really sit down and do some more creative planning. Typically you’re not going to have it where camps fall within the same time span, and as a result of it, you really need to sit down and work with the other parent to figure out specifically what the vacation’s going to be so one child doesn’t feel left out as a result of a priority given to one of the other children.

Margie: Yeah, what about parents who have out-of-state custody? Maybe they have the kids for the entire summer. There’s also a couple of issues there.

Jonathan: So normally when that happens, because of the fact that somebody’s living out of state, they’re generally going to have eight of the ten weeks during the summertime for purposes of their own, you know, physical custody time. When that happens, there’s a lot of issues where let’s say a child is playing in some form of sports or they’re going to some camp to get ready for the sports season coming up, they’re not going to be able to participate unless that other parent is really willing to volunteer to be able to do that. Along with it you also have some transportation issues that need to be addressed, and when somebody’s out of state, if they are having to come back for these particular sports camps for the children, need to figure out how the transportation is going to occur and who is paying for that cost.

Margie: What’s the best case scenario? Just sit down and just kind of hammer it out ahead of time?

Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, you know, the best scenario would be is if you’re joint custodians, you need to sit down and really have a conversation, typically this needs to happen in February, no later than March, so that everybody’s on the same plane for purposes of knowing this is what is going to occur, and then the child can be made aware of it ahead of time so that there is no disappointment factor. And then the other aspect of it is, just because the parenting plan says that you can wait until April or you can wait until May, you don’t want to do that surprise factor because the only person that’s going to end up being really disappointed is the child because they’re going to blame some parent for waiting for that period of time and not really trying to address what they feel their needs are for that particular camp, or sports activity, or just being with their friends during this period of time.

Margie: All of a sudden their summer’s over and they’re back at school!

Jonathan: Exactly. They’re going to blame somebody. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it happens.

Margie: OK, Jonathan Marks, thank you so much, we appreciate your time this morning.

Jonathan: My pleasure.

Margie: For more information on The Marks Law Firm, just head to

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