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 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 center 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 their children's Time at camp to recharge their batteries and prepare for another school year. For some, it simply isn't 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 regarding whether a child will attend summer camp. For some families, the question of whether or not parents can agree to send their child to camp is an 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 gym reasons for opposing summer camp attendance for their child. I want 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 questions about which parent holds the final say about determining whether or not a child can attend summer camp. What will the summer center depend on your consent to enroll your child in a camp and allow them to engage in particular activities without checking with your co-parent as well? Once your child is at the base, who would be contacted in emergencies, the need for medical care, or who can visit your child while they are at the center?
Look to your court orders to begin your analysis.
The first place I would consider 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 the final say in this matter. Or, you and your co-parent may share the right to decide in this regard. In that case, you would need to figure out who is available to play tiebreaker when you cannot agree.
It is possible that you and your ex-spouse would have put language into your final decree of divorce, which spelled out how disagreements on summer camp would be decided. It may be that you placed a school counselor, family member, or other people in a position where they would be able to play a tiebreaker. While this setup would not be abnormal, I do not recall particular instances where parents spelled out 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 with 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 them. 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 crucial issues that impact your child.
Most people who go through a divorce or child custody do have a joint parenting plan that is incorporated within the orders of your family law case. This parenting plan would outline the critical 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 each other. You would have the right in duty to speak with one another about what is in your child's best interests as far as medical or educational decisions. You 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 regarding joint custody would be which parent will have your child during the period in which summer camp is slated to begin and end. If it is a summer camp, then it is likely that the non-custodial or non-primary parent would have the child during this Time. I am making this assumption because the non-primary custodian of your child typically is provided more Time during the summer due to the school year being spent mainly with the primary conservator.
This means that while theoretically, the decision may have to be joint to send your child to camp, the particular center you want to ship your child to may occur when they are not physically in your possession. It could be two hurdles for you to jump over to get a child to camp if that is what you want. First, you need to check with your co-parent to make sure that they are on board with sending your child to camp. Next, you would need to figure out the Time your child would be away and whether or not it falls into your period of possession or your ex-spouse's. If it fails in your ex-spouse's period of residence, you would likely need to negotiate in advance for a make-up period of control to compensate him or she for the Time lost due to summer camp.
What could the summer camp require 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 time. For separated parents, the camp would likely want you all to decide ahead of Time to provide transportation for the child, which parent would be contacted in 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 final decree of divorce. Doing so could avoid disagreements and disruptions to your child's schedule in the future. It would make sense to specify the name of the summer camp you would like your child to attend when the command is typically held as far as the beginning and end date and any activities you would like your child to not participate in. Many centers allow for visitors during periods, 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 children. It is usually in rare circumstances where one parent will have sole control 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 them, but she will hold almost all of the rights and duties to your child about the other parent. When it comes to decision-making, you are in the driver's seat, and your ex-spouse likely wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight regarding 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 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 can't 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 decree of divorce.
If you and your co-parent are not able to agree 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 divorce decree as far as the visitation time you lost with your child. While this is not an immediate remedy for you, it provides you with a legal mechanism for this make-up Time.
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 problems in that voicing them together can bring about an honest discussion about how to handle the matter of whether or not to send your child to camp. Your child's best interest 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 decide 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.