Divorced or separated New Jersey parents may face custody challenges during their first summer apart. New Jersey courts assume that a shared custody schedule is in a child’s best interest, but sometimes that is not practical during the school year.
Therefore, it is common for one parent to have primary physical custody when school is in session, with the other parent having partial physical custody, such as on alternating weekends.
Common concerns with summer custody
However, when school is out and the summer begins, a shared custody schedule becomes possible. The adjustment to a shared summer custody schedule can initially be difficult for both the parents and children.
The parent with primary school-year custody may worry about not seeing their children for a full week, while the children can be nervous about spending a week away from their main caregiver. Conversely, the parent with partial school-year custody could be nervous about having the children longer than they are used to.
Additionally, children’s schedules are often hectic and more unpredictable in the summer. Activities, sports and time with their friends can result in busy schedules without the consistency of a school-year schedule.
Here are some tips for helping you to adhere to your summer custody schedule, while making the transition easy for everyone involved.
Prepare for an adjustment period
While you and your co-parent are always free to agree on modifications to your custody schedule, stick with it as much as possible. Remember that the point of the agreement is to follow its terms.
Expect that there will be a period of adjustment as the summer custody schedule begins. Do not make changes or conclude that the summer schedule is not working if things are rough for the first couple of weeks. Allow your children time to settle into the new schedule.
Do not, under any circumstances, withhold your child from the other parent. This not only hinders the child’s ability to adapt to the new schedule but you could face court penalties for interfering with child custody.
After the adjustment period ends
Once the initial adjustment period is over, being flexible when necessary is best. Accommodate unexpected events and changes to the schedule.
Some summer custody schedules involve an extended period for each parent if they want to take a vacation with the children. Travel almost always involves something unexpected, so if a flight gets cancelled or a car breaks down, do not demand the co-parent adhere to the schedule no matter what. Doing so may be out of their control and impossible.
This goes both ways. If you are the parent who ends up with an extra day or two because of an unplanned occurrence, allow the other parent extra makeup time if they ask for it. This helps keep your co-parenting relationship respectful and benefits the children as well.
Know when it’s time for a change
Sometimes, the changes are more than just minor inconveniences or interruptions. As your children get older, their summer activities and interests change, and your current custody schedule might no longer work.
While children can never choose their custody schedule, their input as to what they want is given more weight as they get older. When they reach the right age and maturity level, let them have a say in what they want, but remember that the summer schedule must still meet New Jersey’s best interest of the child standard.
By keeping these tips in mind, you and your co-parent can ideally reach resolutions to your summer custody schedule challenges.