Summer Parenting Time During and After a Divorce
By: Rebekah A. Branham
With the recent lifting of travel restrictions and school letting out for the summer, parents might be planning last minute family vacations. For parents with minor children who are separated, going through a divorce, or already divorced, they do not only need to plan their trip around their own schedule, but also the schedule of their spouse/ex-spouse and children.
The switch in the usual parenting time that occurs when school lets out generates unique issues for parents and children who have become accustomed to the school year routine. Sorting out these issues prior to departing on your vacation can help avoid unnecessary arguments between parents.
In general, the allocation of parenting time in the summer can either be agreed upon by the parents in a Shared Parenting Plan or determined by the court. Most courts have a “standard parenting schedule” that they follow, unless circumstances provide for deviation:
Cuyahoga County – Each parent shall have parenting time with the child for four weeks each summer. Unless the parents agree otherwise, the four weeks may not be schooled for more than two consecutive weeks at a time if the children are under six years old.
Lorain County – Each parent shall have parenting time with the children for four weeks each summer. If that time is exercised for three or more consecutive weeks at a time, and the parent is staying in the local area with the children, the non-exercising parent may have alternating weekend parenting time with the children.
Lake County – The children’s summer vacation shall be divided equally between the parents. It is to be exercised on a week-on/week-off basis from Sunday to Sunday. Each parent shall also have two weeks of uninterrupted parenting time each summer.
Geauga County – For children over 2 years old, each parent shall have parenting time with the children for three weeks in the summer, commencing on Sundays, for no more than two consecutive weeks at one time.
If parents agree on a summer parenting schedule instead of having the court determine the schedule, their parenting plan can specify the location, duration, and exact dates of the vacation. It can incorporate any variation of the above standard parenting schedules of the courts and adapt to the unique realities of their family. In general, parents have far more flexibility when creating their own parenting schedule.
One important point to remember when planning your summer vacation is that generally, the holiday parenting schedule takes precedence over the summer parenting schedule. Parents who have already established a parenting plan will need to keep this in mind when selecting the dates and booking their vacation so that it does not interfere with the other parent’s Father’s Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day visitation. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind when planning for a summer vacation that your existing parenting plan may provide that vacation should not conflict with the children’s extracurricular activities or summer camp.
Issues regarding parenting time with children, and specifically as it relates to summer parenting time, arise more frequently when a parenting plan is not sufficiently detailed and leaves gaps for the other parent to arbitrarily interpret the meaning of certain provisions. The more detailed the parenting plan, the more seamless co-parenting will be, especially during the busy summer months.
Rebekah Branham is an attorney at the Cleveland, OH-based law firm McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA.