As we are approaching the end of the summer holidays, I think it is safe to say that none of us want to experience a summer like the one that we just had. Even if your family was fortunate enough to avoid coming down with the coronavirus the overall feeling of the summer and the restrictions placed on our family’s behavior or something that none of us enjoyed. The summer months should be spent with your family enjoying yourselves and not worrying about getting sick, masks or any other consideration we had to make regarding the coronavirus. Hopefully, next summer will not be anything like this past summer.
One of the casualties of the coronavirus for this year was that your family was likely unable to send your child to a summer camp. It is a tradition for many families in our area to send their children to a camp where they can learn life skills, engage in fun with kids their age and generally let loose after months of being in the classroom. Parents can utile eyes their children’s Time at camp to recharge their batteries and prepare for another school year. For some, it simply isn't a summer without summer camp.
Looking ahead to next summer, let's optimistically assume that the threats of COVID-19 have been neutralized and your family once again can send your child to summer camp. Unfortunately, a viral pandemic is not the only consideration that some families need to give in regard to whether or not a child will be able to attend summer camp. For some families, the question of whether or not parents can agree to sending your child to camp is irrelevant one to ask.
Some families find themselves in a position where the parents cannot agree on much of anything. This is unfortunate given that summer camp offers many advantages for children and experiences that cannot be replicated elsewhere. On the other hand, a parent may have a gym it reasons for opposing summer camp attendance for their child. I would like to spend some time in today's blog post discussing the issue of summer camp and what can happen when you and your co-parent disagree about whether or not to send your child to camp during the summer months.
Divorced or separated families experience disagreement regarding whether a child can attend camp
Due to the nature of many family dynamics, especially after a divorce, there may be some question as to which parent holds the final say in regard to determining whether or not a child can attend summer camp. What is summer camp be able to depend on your consent to enroll your child in a camp and allow for him or her to engage in particular activities without checking with your co-parent as well? Once your child is at camp who would be contacted in the event of emergencies, the need for medical care or in regard to who can visit your child while he or she is at camp?
Look to your court orders to begin your analysis
The first place I would look in regard to determining authority to allow your child to attend summer camp would be your court orders. It may be that you and your coherent thought ahead and inserted particular provisions into the final decree of divorce that calls for a parent to have final say in this matter. Or, you and your co-parent may actually share the right to make a decision in this regard. In that case, you would need to figure out who is available to play tiebreaker when you are unable to agree.
It is possible that you and your ex-spouse would have put language into your final decree of divorce which spelled out in detail how disagreements on summer camp would be decided. It may be that you placed a school counselor, family member or other person in a position where they would be able to play tiebreaker. While this sort of setup would not be abnormal, I do not recall particular instances where parents spelled out in detail how summer camp disputes would be settled. That's not to say that your family wouldn't have accounted for this subject in advance, but I would be doubtful that this is the case.
Joint custody in relation to summer camp attendance
For most Texas families who have gone through a family lock case, you are likely in a position where joint custody was ultimately what was arrived at in your preceding. Joint custody refers to your ability to share rights and duties associated with your co-parent as well as share time with him or her. This does not necessarily mean that time is shared equally, and rights and responsibilities are shared equally. All it means is that there is equity to a great extent as far as each of your abilities to weigh in on the important issues that impact your child.
What most people who go through a divorce or child custody do have would be a joint parenting plan that is incorporated within the orders of your family law case. This parenting plan would outline the important details of any shared parenting arrangement. You and your ex-spouse would both be able to receive information About your child from their school and from each other. You would have the right in duty to speak with one another about what is in the best interests of your child as far as medical or educational decisions an could weigh in on whether or not to allow your child to attend activities such as summer camp.
The other issue that I would consider in regard to joint custody would be which parent is going to be in possession of your child during the time period in which summer camp is slated to begin an end. If it is a summer camp, then it is likely that the non-custodial or non-primary parent would be in possession of the child during this time. The reason I am making this assumption is that the non-primary custodian of your child typically is provided more time during the summer due to the school year days being spent mostly with the primary conservator.
What this means is that while theoretically the decision may have to be a joint one to send your child to camp the particular camp that you want to send your child to may occur when he or she is not physically in your possession. It could be two hurdles for you to jump over as far as getting a child to camp if that is what you want. First, you would need to check with your co-parent to make sure that he or she is on board with sending your child to camp. Next, you would need to figure out the time period that your child would be away and whether or not it falls into your period of possession or your ex-spouse’s. In the event that it falls in your ex-spouse’s period of possession you would likely need to negotiate in advance for a make-up period of possession to compensate him or her for the time lost due to summer camp.
What could the summer camp require in order for your child to attend their program?
From the perspective of the summer camp, many camps use custody forms with regularity. These forms would include provisions that require you and your co-parent to agree that it is acceptable for the child to attend that camp for a specific period of time. For separated parents, it is likely that the camp would want you all to agree ahead of time who is to provide transportation for the child, which parent would be contacted in the event of an emergency and who would be paying for the camp and its activities.
If you are going through a divorce right now and have not reached the end of the case when final orders have been determined, you may want to go ahead and include similar provisions in your own final decree of divorce. Doing so could avoid disagreements and disruptions to your child schedule in the future. It would make sense to specify the name of the summer camp that you would like your child to attend, when the camp is typically held as far as the beginning and end date and any activities that you would like your child to not participate in. Many camps allow for visitors during stretches of time and you can specify which visitors would be allowable under the terms of your divorce decree.
What if you have sole custody of your child?
As I mentioned a moment ago most parents in Texas shared joint custody of their child. It is usually in rare circumstances where one parent will have sole custody over their child. What this means is that if you have sole custody of your child, you not only will be able to spend most of your child's time with him or her but she will hold almost all of the rights and duties to your child in relation to the other parent. When it comes to decision-making you are in the driver seat and your ex-spouse likely wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight in regard to decisions about whether or not to send your child to summer camp.
However, having sole custody does not mean that the other parent does not have rights. If you are a possessory conservator of your child, this means that the other parent has sole custody over your son or daughter. Keep in mind though that if you lose parenting time with your child over this summer you would be entitled to make up time later in the year. The reason for this is even if you don't have the ability to say yes or no to whether or not your child attends summer camp you do have the ability 2 have the court ordered periods of possession provided for you in your final degree of divorce.
In the event that you and your co-parent are not able to come to an agreement on make-up time you should be able to file an enforcement lawsuit with the court that your divorce was hurting. The enforcement lawsuit would seek to enforce the terms of your final decree of divorce as far as the visitation time that you lost with your child. while this is not an immediate remedy for you, it does provide you with a legal mechanism they have this make up time provided to you.
Final thoughts on summer camp during the era of COVID-19
if you have reason to believe that your child is at a greater risk of getting sick, either from COVID-19 or from any other sickness, then you will want to be direct with your co-parent about your concerns. You may be surprised to learn that your co-parent has similar concerns in that voicing them together can bring about honest discussion about how to handle the matter of whether or not to send your child to camp. The best interest of your child should be considered first and foremost when talking about this or any other subject related to family law. Balancing the desire for your child to attend camp with any health risks that may be apparent to your child now and in the future is a decision that should be made between you and your co-parent. It may take some negotiation but remember that the two of you are in the best position to make a decision on behalf of your child.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are made available via phone, in person and via video.