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Does the Visitation Schedule Change Now That My Child is Out of School?

Posted on June 15th, 2024

Summer is almost here, which means kids will be out of school soon. If you are a divorced or separated parent sharing custody, you might be wondering if your visitation schedule needs an adjustment now that your child’s routine will change significantly. At Harris Family Law Group, we understand this is a common concern for many families. Let’s explore what typically happens and what factors courts consider.

Visitation Schedule

When School is in Session vs. Summer Break

During the school year, visitation schedules tend to have a fairly set routine to minimize disruption to the child’s school week. A common arrangement is for one parent to have the children most weeknights while the other parent has alternating weekends. This allows the children to remain in the same home and neighborhood throughout the school week.

However, when summer arrives and day-to-day schedules are more open, visitation can become more flexible. Many parents aim for an equal or roughly equal timeshare over the long summer months when children are free from school obligations.

What the Law Says in California

In California, there are two key guidelines that govern visitation scheduling for separating parents:

  • The visitation schedule must be determined based on the best interests of the child.
  • State law encourages frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

So when it comes to modifying schedules for summer break, the goal is to make arrangements that uphold the child’s well-being and allow ample time with each parent in a realistic way.

Factors Courts Consider

If parents cannot agree on a summer schedule, the court will aim to establish a plan that is reasonable for the specific family situation. Factors that may be examined include:

  • The child’s age
  • The parents’ work schedules/obligations
  • Geographical distance between households
  • The established relationship between the child and each parent
  • Any special needs or circumstances of the child
  • The child’s preferences (if they are mature enough)

Courts want to avoid unproductive back-and-forth transfers and provide a degree of consistency even during more unstructured summer months.

Common Summer Schedules

While every family’s situation is unique, here are some common visitation models California courts may implement over the summer:

  • Alternating weeks or extended blocks of time with each parent
  • Maintaining the school routine with one home as primary, plus extra time with the other parent
  • Splitting the summer into two larger segments (i.e., six weeks with one parent, then six weeks with the other)
  • If parents live far apart, allowing the non-custodial parent a longer single stretch of exclusive vacation time with the children

Communication is Essential

Whichever schedule is used, clear communication between parents is crucial to make transitions smooth and avoid unnecessary confusion or conflicts. Discussing semester breaks, family events, travel plans, and any other relevant scheduling factors ahead of time can prevent stress.

It is wise for parents to memorialize any summer agreements about pickup times, locations, and date ranges in a written document or calendar they can reference. This provides clarity and allows any potential disagreements to be worked out beforehand.

If conflicts persist about developing a workable summer plan, court assistance may be required. Our experienced family law attorney at Harris Family Law Group can guide you through the process of resolving scheduling issues with your child’s best interests as the top priority.

If you and the other parent agree on a summer visitation modification, you can:

  • Draft an amendment to the parenting plan: This clarifies the summer schedule and becomes part of your official agreement.
  • Formalize it through a court order: While not essential for an agreed-upon modification, a court order can provide additional legal weight and clarity.
  • Clear communication: Keep the other parent informed of your child’s summer activities and any changes to the schedule.
  • Maintain routines: As much as possible, maintain familiar routines for meals, bedtime, and chores, even during transitions between parents’ homes.

Keep an Open Mind

It is worth noting that summer visitation schedules are not set in stone forever. As children mature and household circumstances evolve, families often need to reevaluate and modify arrangements over time. Being open, communicative, and avoiding a rigid mindset serves children best.

Summer breaks provide a chance for quality bonding between kids and parents away from the usual school-year routine. With positive co-parenting, realistic expectations, and some flexibility, these valuable months can be enjoyed by the whole family.

At Harris Family Law Group, we aim to help parents establish fair, child-centered visitation plans that work smoothly year-round, school or no school. Contact us at 310-745-8644 if you need legal guidance on this issue.