No doubt about it, kids love summer vacation. For divorced parents, on the other hand, these vacations can be the source of all varieties of stress and conflict. This is particularly so if the parties have not worked out the vacation schedules in advance.
As a married couple, last minute vacation plans are the norm for some families. This flexibility is rarely the case with divorced parents or with parents that are in the process of divorce. This can be the case even for those parents that are on very good terms. One party‘s flexibility and whim is the other parent‘s inconvenience and disruption.
Though all conflicts cannot be avoided by time-sharing agreements that include carefully spelled out summer vacation schedules, a schedule can certainly go a long way in that direction for most. A schedule is helpful for all divorced parents. It is absolutely necessary for high conflict child custody cases.
Even for those parents that are effectively co-parenting, a schedule is important for numerous reasons. First, and foremost, it provides security, predictability and comfort for the children. It is important for children in a divorce setting to have predictability and reliability. What may seem like trivial diversions for parents can be very upsetting to children who may already be on edge due to the stresses of divorce.
Next, a schedule avoids the inevitable scheduling conflicts that will arise when parents do not plan in advance or work together to plan their vacations. Again, the conflicts can be very stressful for the children.
For parents that do not get along or cooperate, a schedule is absolutely necessary. The family law courts (at least in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho) are overrun with emergency motions to address time-sharing during the summer due to conflicts with summer vacations. The same thing happens at Christmas and other holidays as well.
The lack of a schedule and cooperation not only leads to unnecessary and costly court appearances, it causes other problems as well, not the least of which is the fact that “emergency” in family law court does not mean you will get a hearing before the vacation is actually scheduled. Beyond that, the children bear much of the brunt of these conflicts, which can turn the long anticipated summer vacation into a dreaded event. The parents likewise will suffer the stress (and costs) of the court hearings.
These consequences often are not enough to deter the conflict. An airtight vacation schedule will. There are certainly those that will go to court anyway, but that is the exception. And there can be serious consequences for violating the vacation schedules, including awards of attorney fees, contempt and even modifications of time-sharing moving forward.
Addressing vacation plans well in advance with a well thought out and well documented schedule can go a long way toward maintaining the peace and sanity of the parties. Most of all, it will help to insure that indeed summer vacation is a time of joy for the children and not simply a season of hostility and conflict to be dreaded.
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