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How to Decide Summertime Parenting Schedules

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By Joshua E. Stern, Divorce and Family Law Attorney

After the school year winds to a close for families across Chicago and the suburbs, our team sees countless parents performing balancing acts: trying to maintain work schedules, spend time with their kids, ensure the kids have a fun summer, and squeeze in some continued learning.

For divorced parents or parents in the midst of a separation, these summer schedules can be even more complicated.

Thinking about holidays and summer vacation time is an important part of your custody agreement. Our goal at Stern Perkoski Mendez during the divorce process is to incorporate parameters that work well for you and your children—allowing you to maximize time together during the summer, holidays and school breaks.

Let’s take a closer look at how parenting time is divided and determined, and how you can get a summer schedule that works well for your family.

How Parenting Time is Determined

In general, parenting time falls into the following three tiers:

  1. Regular Time — The regular time schedule includes both the school year and summer months. With your respective attorneys, depending on your method of divorce, you and your former spouse will work out a regular schedule that makes sense for both of you, as well as your children. You’ll follow this all year, but it can and will be adjusted based on vacations and holidays.
  2. Vacation Time — The second tier of parenting time is vacation time. Typically, each parent will get two to three weeks of vacation time. Families tend to utilize this time during the summer or on school breaks.
  3. Holiday Time — Holiday time, the third tier, includes the holidays that are important to your family and your religion or culture. If it’s your year to have time with your kids on a specific holiday, your spouse cannot expect you to adjust it because of their vacation.

All three of these tiers will be part of the parenting and custody agreement you and your former spouse create during the divorce process. The various approaches to divorce will determine how much control and creativity you (and your former spouse) have over the arrangement, or if it is primarily decided by a judge.

What do we do about parenting time in the summer?

If you like simplicity, the good news is that summer parenting time falls under the three tiers of regular time, vacation time and holiday time. The court assumes that your schedule shouldn’t need to change over the summer. If you and your spouse are both fit to parent during the school year, you should be equally able to do so over the summer. This consistency tends to be even more important when younger children are involved.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Here are the main two that I’ve run into with my clients:

  1. The two parents do not live close to each other

    If one parent has relocated and no longer lives nearby, it may make sense to have a specific summer schedule. If the non-residential parent is fit to parent and able to care for their children over the summer, you should incorporate this into your larger parenting plan. The non-residential parent can have more time during the summer and on school breaks, while the residential parent takes the majority of the time during the school year.

    There are also several more compromises that our team has seen work well for divorced parents living in different states.

  2. There are logistical challenges during the school year

    If one spouse’s job requires them to work early mornings and miss school drop-offs, or they’re a medical professional and work long shifts a few times a week, you may need different school year and summertime schedules. If you’re in this situation, we can set parameters that will allow you to find the appropriate balance between consistency for your kids and flexibility with your work schedule depending on the time of year.

What if my co-parent can’t handle the demands of the school year?

I’ve also worked with parents whose spouse is simply irresponsible—and the division of domestic labor and mental load was never equitable when they were married.

If your spouse is consistently bringing your child to school late or is late picking them up, that’s an unacceptable circumstance. You do not have to adjust your schedule between the school year and the summer to accommodate this or any similar issue. If this is the case, then either your spouse will need to care for your child and be in the right place at the right time—or you will be awarded more time during both the school year and the summer.

Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Firm in Evanston and Chicago

If you have questions about your parenting time schedule or how to navigate the summer months, contact our team at Stern Perkoski Mendez. Our attorneys are passionate about supporting children, parents and families throughout the divorce process.

Request a free consultation online or give us a call at (847) 868-9584. We can meet with you at our offices in Evanston, Chicago, Lake Forest, Oakbrook Terrace, via Zoom or at another location convenient to you.

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For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.