Birmingham, Mich. – June 30, 2014 – School is out, summer has officially begun and kids and families across the nation are filling their calendars with camps and trips. But with more than four million divorced parents having to share time with their children, it may not be sun-time and fun-time for all. Jessica Woll, managing partner of Woll & Woll, P.C., a Michigan-based divorce and family law practice with a niche expertise in complex family law issues, offers summer survival tips for divorced parents.
First, according to Woll, in a time when childhood is fleeting, parents need to remain ‘child-centric’ at all times.
“A child’s needs always come first. I remind my clients to ask themselves what their child will benefit from most. What will create happy summer memories? When parents answer these questions as if they were the child, the answer places the child’s needs first,” Woll said. “And yes, this may mean allowing the child to go on that trip up north with the other parent.”
Woll also stresses the need to be flexible. As children grow, their needs change; a parenting time schedule created when the child was four years old may not be right for the child at fifteen. Also, a schedule that works during the school year may not be conducive to everyone’s summer schedules.
“If a judgment of divorce calls for equal parenting time throughout the year, including summer break, remember that mathematical equality might not be perfect for each child every year of their life until they reach 18 years of age,” Woll said. “Summer trips, camps and other activities may call for the parents to put the needs and wants of the child first and that doesn’t always translate to 50/50 time with each parent.”
This also translates into ex-couples sharing the children with each other.
“As a divorce attorney for 20 years, I have found young children want nothing more than to spend time with both of their parents at the same time,” Woll said. “If parents can stomach it, try to include the ex in one of the family events or plan a small outing – traditions and activities the children are used to during the summer months.”
This can be as simple as going on a family bike ride because it provides the togetherness the child wants while minimizing the amount of interaction between ex-spouses. In addition, this could also be the start of new family traditions.
“After divorce, children also start a new chapter in their lives. Starting a new tradition may help kids ease the loss they feel as a result of their parents’ separation,” Woll said. “Whether it’s playing a game in the backyard or taking a family trip, creating new traditions as the children grow can help make summer vacation more manageable and enjoyable for all.”
While one parent cannot control the others actions, they can control their own. So, if nothing else, “fake it till you make it,” Woll said.
“It is never a good idea to utter even one negative comment about the other parent or his/her family. While many parents are divorced because they have been wronged by their ex, they may have to fake it and shelve their feelings,” Woll said. “The children don’t need to be told how bad their mother/father will miss them while they are spending time with the other parent, see their mother/father crying when they leave and/or hear ill comments about their mom/dad. Instead, children should be told how much fun they will have with their mother/father.”
Ample planning and communication can also help ease the summer vacation with divorced parents and ensure the time off goes smoothly for both the parents and children. It may also save parents from scrambling to court last minute to enforce parenting time agreements.
“The goal is to stay out of court. Therefore, planning with the ex several weeks or even months before summer vacation arrives and confirming plans in writing can help facilitate this process,” Woll said.
About Woll & Woll, P.C.
Celebrating 20 years as a firm in 2014, Woll & Woll, P.C. specializes in divorce and family law, including legal separation, post-judgment of divorce matters, removal of domicile actions, stepparent adoption, custody, child support, paternity and other family issues. Learn more here.