Co-Parenting and Summer Access

posted in: Child Custody, Co-Parenting | 18

It’s summer. The glory days of youth. Most kids are out of school at least part of the season and they’ll be ready to spend time with both parents. Have you read your divorce/custody decree about who’s supposed to have your child and when during this time?

No? You may want to. Go on, get it out. I’ll wait.

<Whistling – albeit not very well and scaring my cat>

Back? Okay, let’s see what it says.

In most instances, you’re going to see that the parent who does not have primary custody should have a good chunk of the summer. Read the details carefully.

If you’re the non-primary parent, you may be able to choose when you want the child, but you probably have to give notice (usually in writing) in advance. The amount of notice may differ depending on your order. If you don’t give notice, then you probably have a certain time period that automatically kicks in. (Take note of the mays and the probablys. Each court order is different, so make sure you know what yours says. If you have any doubt about the legal-eze speak, ask your attorney.)

You need to be prepared to have your child during that time period and you’ll need to make arrangements for child care (if applicable) while you work. If you live close enough, it may be best that your child continue in the child care program he or she is already familiar with as the less upheaval for your child the better.

What if you forgot to give notice that you want a different time? Is it okay to ask for it? Of course it is – usually.* In most instances, as long as both parties agree, you can change things up to suit yourselves. However, if the other party has made plans already based on you not giving notice, don’t argue about it. You goofed and you’ll know better next year.

So what if your child’s other parent didn’t meet the deadline for notice, but now wants to have your son and/or daughter at a different time for a family vacation? If you don’t have plans, then why not let them have it?

“But they didn’t do what they were supposed to!” Stomps foot.

Ummm…yeah. We’re all human and make mistakes. I’ve seen people not budge from their stance (with no real reason or other plans) just because the other parent missed a deadline by a day. What the heck? These people were more concerned about control and “getting to” the other parent than they were in what was best for their children.

Why drag out the drama or deprive your child of something fun to do? If you made plans already, then don’t sweat it. Just try to work out something amicable that will keep the arguing to a minimum.

Help your kids make great conflict-free memories this summer! Image by korycheer at


If you’re the primary parent, you may have options to have your child for a weekend or two during this portion of time he or she is with their other parent. But you may also be required to give notice in writing by a certain time, so be aware of the particulars of your court order.

Enjoy your children this summer and allow them to have peace and a pleasant time with both of you without a lot of fuss. After all – what memories do you want your child to have for the summer? Mom and dad fighting? Again. Or do you want them to recall fun and laughter with both parents? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

If divorced, do you have a good working relationship with your child’s other parent? How do you keep the drama at bay and co-parent without the fuss?


* I’ve not seen one, but I suppose there could be a court order out there that prohibits changing it even when you both mutually agree. So just read your order carefully.


** My boring but necessary disclaimer for these types of posts: I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice. I am merely giving my opinions based upon nearly 20 years working with family and children within the family court system. I hope you find it helpful. But in all matters, refer to your court order and seek advice from your attorney should you have any questions.


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The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

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18 Responses

  1. Heidi

    So glad those difficult days are behind us. My experience was a bit trying, but the primary consideration is the emotional and physical well-being of the child. I feel for any parent that is going through this. My son is now in his own situation of child sharing. I did what I could to minimize the impact. He does what he can, also. Memories are a very important consideration. I never tried to interfere with plans on the dad’s side for vacations. I didn’t have to regret that. Thanks for the post on a very heartfelt issue for so many of us.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Heidi. Sounds like your son was fortunate to have a parent who did what she could to minimize the stress and to preserve those important memories. 🙂

  2. Kristine Cayne

    I’m not in this situation, but I feel for those who are. Divorce is difficult, why make it harder? Great post, Rhonda.

  3. Catie Rhodes

    I find these posts really interesting. I don’t have kids, and I’m not divorced, so they don’t apply to me at all. It’s one of those “how the other half lives” things, I suppose.

    I knew a couple (no longer in contact with either of them) who had joint custody of their infant son. The mother liked to party, which was probably the reason for their divorce. They worked out a deal where the ex-husband paid no set amount of child support. Instead, he went in halves with her on big expenses concerning the kid and took the kid anytime she wanted to go bar crawling.

    This worked out for several years until, seemingly out of the blue, party girl took her ex to court for back child support. After that, he refused to take the kid anytime she wanted to go partying. He insisted she stick to the schedule. Last I heard via the gossip grapevine, he is suing her for sole custody of the kid.

    Now, these are incredibly dysfunctional people, and I’m sure their story is not the norm. But your post made me think of it all the same.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks, Catie. I appreciate your support and that you find these posts interesting. 🙂 I saw that kind of thing a lot over the years while working with the courts. The child may be better off with him based on this limited info. However, you’re right. They both would appear to be dysfunctional. He’s not taking the child into consideration when he refuses to take his son. He’s just trying to punish her. In the meantime, if she really wants to go partying, she could leave the boy with who knows who, putting him at risk. Very sad situation.

  4. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    My sister told me some harrowing tales of what her husband did to her children with regard to what he told the kids about her, turning them against her with his lies. All of that is so sad and unnecessary and serves no purpose whatsoever when there’s joint custody.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I wrote a reply to this but it never showed up. Forgive me if you get it twice on your end.

      That is horrible, Patti. I’m so sorry your sister and kids had/have to go through that. What I’ve found through the years though, is that once the kids are old enough they will usually catch on to what the other parent has been doing and what he/she has cost them in regards to a relationship with their other parent. The parent doing the alienating ends up with a worse relationship than the other parent in the long run. That doesn’t help what happens during the childhood years though. Hopefully your sister’s kids will figure it all out sooner rather than later.

  5. Alarna Rose Gray

    Rhonda, you are so right about this stuff. As an onlooker to little one’s in my family, it has been terribly hard to watch some of the push-me-pull-you stuff that goes on when parents are embittered towards each other. But kids are pretty quick to catch on to this stuff, and have their ways of balancing things up. I’m constantly in awe of how they cope.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Alarna! I’m in awe of children’s abilities to adjust as well. They’re remarkable and they usually do catch on quickly. It’s very hard watching someone you love go through this. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you have a great day!

  6. Louise Behiel

    my kids are all grown and gone but these are fascinating posts, Rhonda. good information all the way around.

  7. Julie Glover

    This is great information! I have family to whom this applies. Thankfully, my hubby and I are stuck like glue ourselves–19 years and counting. Thanks, Rhonda!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Julie! Glad you found the info helpful. And it’s so awesome that you and your hubby are so happy together. I hope you have many many more years together. 🙂

  8. Family Law West Palm Beach

    Hi Rhonda – thanks for sharing your insights and indispensable tips on co-parenting. There will always be complexities to deal with, but removing negative attitudes and behavior (on the adults part) goes a long way to making work for everyone.