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How do we handle summer camp issues as divorced parents?

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Children and Divorce, Parenting Plans |

If you have kids, and it’s June, it’s quite possible you’ve got a new routine going this month. You might be taking your kids to summer camp rather than school, and if you are, there’s a lot to be said for the decision to enrich your children’s education this summer.

Your kids get an opportunity to learn, to get out of the house, to make new friends, and to not fall into the trap of lazing around the house logging way too much screen time.

For parents, the benefits are obvious … you get at least a few hours to do work while your kids are having a great experience, and you also have a chance to bring your kids together with other kids they might not get to normally hang around with. For example, if there’s a cousin across town who doesn’t go to the same school as your kids, summer camp might be an opportunity for them to learn and have fun together that they wouldn’t have during the school year.

There’s one catch if you’re a divorced parent. Because camps cost money and involve potential scheduling issues, they can be a source of conflict.

The best way to alleviate that, of course, is to have summer camp as part of your Final Decree of Divorce. If it’s not in your initial decree, it’s certainly possible to modify your decree to address the key issues coming up around it. Some of the issues that might arise include who will pay for camps and who will do drop-offs and pickups for the children. Additionally, many camps do not offer the standard hours that schools do, so someone will likely have to miss part of their regular work day when doing drop-offs, pickups, and caring for the children during regular business hours.

As far as paying for it, the fairest thing to do might be to split the costs down the middle, as decrees under the Texas Family Code often will for medical expenses. But as we know from handling lots of family law cases, equal doesn’t always mean fair. If one parent has significantly greater income than the other, even when figuring in child support, a more proportional distribution of the costs might be better for everyone.

It’s also a good idea, regardless of the level of detail in the decree about summer camp, for you and your co-parent to communicate well in advance. Ideally, this planning should occur in early spring. Some summer camps are week-long programs where kids are camping or in dorms on college campuses, and that can impact the notion of what’s fair when it comes to summer parenting time.

But if you’re aware of your child’s summer camp schedule in advance, you can create a schedule that factors in sleep-away camps and still gives each parent adequate parenting time. If you’re doing it on the fly and adding camps last minute, it could make both the parent and child feel like their time is being compromised.

Then again, it might be beneficial for both the parent and the child to schedule a last-minute camp. Let’s say unexpected work obligations come up one week that the mother is scheduled for parenting time, and there’s a camp a child really wants to go to. It is best to have situations like this laid out in the decree so there is an understanding on which parent is going to be responsible to pay for last-minute camps during a week in which that parent has the child.  However, it is also helpful to at least have communication should this occur, in case of any emergencies that might arise.

Finally, the most important thing to remember in all of this is to think about the children first. It’s paramount to think about what’s important to the children and their memories of the summer. The more specific the decree is, the more you can use that as a fallback and the less likely it will be for disputes to come up that might adversely affect their time with either or both of you. Even so, it’s not unusual for you and your co-parent to have periodic disagreements about what you want out of the summer. The more you can communicate and put the children first, the better off you and your kids will fare.

If you’re curious about adding summer camp provisions to your existing decree, or looking to modify an existing decree, the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance can help you take the steps necessary, first talking through what’s possible and what might work best, and then working through the family law system to get it finalized.