Take the Stress out of Summer Break: Tips for Divorced Parents

Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming and the kids are counting the days to their Summer Break, but for divorced parents it can mean the start of the battle over how their kids will spend the break and who will pay for it. Many families send their children to summer camp, but being divorced can make Summer Break plans a little hard to navigate with activities and sports overlapping with the court ordered visitation schedules. Here are some tips on minimizing the stress and splitting these expenses to make sure everything is in order before the summer gets here.

Be Proactive

Start an open dialogue with your former spouse about the options for your children for the summer from play dates with friends, to sports, to camps to summer school requirements. Put together a calendar showing the visitation schedule and expected vacation dates so everyone has a clear picture of the dates available for other activities. The calendar should be detailed and clear. Maintaining an open dialogue while developing the calendar gives both parents a sense of empowerment and gives a basis for accountability while helping to limit surprises or feelings of being blind-sided in the months ahead. Remember to keep the focus on building the summer around what your kids want and what is best for them, not a battle of wills.

Compromise

Unrealized expectations can make the dog days of summer extremely frustrating for divorced parents, especially newly divorced parents. When setting out the plans for summer realize the plans you work hard to put together for your children may not be what your estranged spouse has in mind. Prioritize the activities that are important for your children to participate in and be prepared to compromise. Some parents view their visitation schedule as "their" time and are not willing to share that time with camps and sports activities.

You may have to decide if it is worth paying the full fee for a camp if your children are only able to participate on your visitation days. Be prepared to compromise and keep your focus on what is best for your children. That may require using some of your court ordered vacation days with your children so they can participate in some activities or paying the entire bill for a camp or activity. Keep in mind that camps are for the development and enjoyment of the kids. Selecting a camp shouldn't be considered an opportunity to retaliate against the other parent.

Picking Up The Tab.

In terms of splitting the financial costs of summer camp, some states list summer camp as a necessity and therefore, it’s a cost to be split equally between the parents. However, it really comes down to whether summer camp is distinguished as childcare or an extracurricular activity. If summer camp were replacing the care of a child because the parent is working or is in school, then the cost would be shared equally.

But if the child is old enough to go without childcare, then summer camp is deemed an extracurricular activity and the cost splitting is up to the parents to figure out. If you are at an impasse offering to pay the full fee for the camp may sway the other parent to give the camp a "thumbs up." Even if the costs are to be shared equally, some camps can be quite expensive, so be cognizant and respectful of the other parent's financial budgetary constraints.

Planning ahead minimizes the stress for both the parents and the children when looking ahead for Summer Break. Take the time to communicate. Having realistic expectations about what their summer will look like and the costs involved allows everyone to better enjoy the months ahead.

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