As we inch closer to the end of another school year, parents across the State of Texas are bracing for the return home of their children. Not that the kids have been away from home for nine months, but their day to day lives were dominated by school and extracurricular activities. Now that summer is upon us the daily involvement of parents ramps up significantly. This is the case for married and divorced parents alike.
If you have recently gone through a divorce and are entering into your first summer as a single parent there are plenty of opportunities in front of you to make life difficult for yourself, your ex-spouse and your children if you are not careful. Handling the summer months well, whether you are the primary or non primary parent, is a delicate dance that requires some degree of forethought and planning.
Co-parenting is one of those terms that people in the media love to use and over-use, in my opinion. We hear about it a lot and read about it a lot but ultimately I’m not sure that it has any real meaning beyond doing what is best for your child. Communication is inherent in co-parenting as is patience with your ex-spouse. If you can manage to combine these characteristics into your parenting strategy then you will be doing well as a divorced parent.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I would like to spend some time discussing this subject with you all. Specifically, I have some tips and tricks to keep in mind as we lurch towards the summer months.
Know what your Divorce Decree says as far as a summertime visitation schedule is concerned
If it’s been a few months since your divorce was finalized it wouldn’t hurt to go back and read through the order to determine what your responsibilities are as far as summertime visits with your child are concerned. Every divorce decree has differences as far as this subject is concerned so do not assume that yours matches your neighbor’s or co-worker’s.
Know what you need to do as far as picking kids up, dropping them off, etc. You will frustrate your ex-spouse to no end if she/he knows the order and you do not. Contact your ex-spouse to smooth over any misunderstandings and to confirm that you both are on the same page on any given subject. Even if you are right about how the divorce decree reads on a particular subject it is better to make sure your ex-spouse is aware of what the order actually says rather than to assume that you can always correct him or her later. The name of the game is avoiding disputes and arguments.
In the event that you are more than a few years since the time of your divorce decree being signed, you have probably found that your children are changing and evolving in ways that your decree did not or could not have anticipated. For instance, if your child wants to spend more time with each parent rather than sticking to what your divorce decree says then you may need to seek to informally modify the order. You can always seek a modification through the courts but for some families this is not practical. Speak with your ex-spouse and see if you can work something out between the two of you.
Money, money, money
The more active your children are the more likely you are to run into unforeseen costs and expenses. While you may not be able to anticipate the specific costs, if you know your children are always out and about you can anticipate that there will be expenses associated with the activities that they are involved in. If your divorce decree does not provide a method as to how these costs are to be divided (most decrees do not, by the way) then you and your ex-spouse will need to decide upon how you all are going to handle this situation. There are many ways to take care of these bills, costs and expenses but to arrive at an agreement you all will need to be willing to work together. Maybe the parent who earns more money will handle a higher percentage of costs. Maybe you all will decide that whichever parent is in possession of the child will pay the costs. Whatever you decide, do it together and allow the other one to express him or herself.
Maintain a calendar of events that both parents can access
Technology is great in many ways. One of those many ways is now that we have technology-based means of communication, difficult concepts and conversations can be had digitally rather than in person or over the phone. I understand that in many ways this is actually a negative thing, but in the world of divorce it can absolutely be a positive thing.
Here is what I mean by that. Hopefully you and your ex-spouse are on speaking terms but if you are not the communication by email or other electronic methods can be a godsend. Communication through a shared calendar is another means by which divorced parents like yourself can both schedule events and receive instantaneous feedback from other folks that have access to the calendar.
My advice would be to get a shared calendar set up for you and your ex-spouse to both have editing privileges. If you both take the time and effort to update the calendar then this can be an extremely effective tool at keeping everyone on the same page. Any activities associated with school, friends, church, etc. can and should be added to the calendar.
Miscommunication is a huge cause and reason for arguments and additional time in court for divorced parents. Do not assume that your ex-spouse knows all the same things you do about the schedule for your children. It is tempting to use the fact that your ex-spouse is not as organized as you to attempt to pull the wool over their eyes or to cause a misunderstanding to be used as a pretext to file a modification or enforcement case against him or her. Rather than be looking to constantly score points against an ex-spouse for their violations of the divorce decree, why not do your best to keep everyone on the same page. It’s not as if being in the right simply entitles you to anything. Spend time with your children rather than planning on the next court battle against your ex-spouse.
Put your children at the top of your list
If your ex-spouse figures out that your motives are purely to embarrass, annoy or harass him or her then you are going to have longstanding trust issues with this person even though you are no longer married. The reason why you are going through all the trouble of organizing your life, planning ahead and even reading this blog post is because you love your children and want what is in their best interests. I don’t think anyone would argue that it is in your children’s best interest to have their parents get along with one another.
Work with your ex-spouse if an unforeseen event occurs. If you go out of your way to help him or her it is likely that he or she will do the same thing for you when the shoe is on the other foot. Summer is supposed to be about fun in the sun before the start of another school year. Keep these tips in mind and there will be a great deal of fun for you and your family to have this Summer.
Questions about summertime visitation? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions or concerns about how summertime visits work or how your divorce decree reads then please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. It is always an honor for us to be able to sit down with the people in our community to answer questions and directly address their concerns.