Let It (Parenting Time in Summer) Flow

Let It (Parenting Time in Summer) Flow

Photo by Nick Wilkes on Unsplash

We are in the height of summer, and I hope my clients are feeling good and being flexible with their Parenting Time arrangements.

I’m not saying divorced parents should throw out the parameters they established for co-parenting. I’m saying that when kids are out of school, some attending camp, others at home during the day, it’s important to be “giving” with your ex so that Parenting Time can flow with your children’s schedule changes.

If we look at Parenting Time as “the kids’ time” and are not possessive of our children’s time, it can be easier to just let it flow with their schedules.

Think about if you were still married – you would take into account that your kids go to camp, or have a job, or have another out-of-the-ordinary schedule and you would try to balance the time that they’re home so that you can enjoy them as their schedules allow.

Summer is also a good time to try a different schedule. For instance, if you’re thinking of moving toward a more equal parenting time schedule, it’s better for your children if you and their co-parent can try it out  during the summer months to see how your children adjust rather than doing so for the first time at the beginning of the school year.

Photo by Valeria Zoncoll on Unsplash

Just letting it flow in the summer means parents can plan some good down time when the kids are not bound by school and extracurricular demands. That doesn’t mean they have to go away on a vacation; it’s an opportunity to spend more time with them, if you can arrange it with work schedules, doing fun things, creating memories.

As a working mom, I found summers stressful because I had to find activities for my daughters when they were young, schedule camps they would enjoy and find caregivers. There were hours during the day I needed to be at work and my husband’s schedule was not flexible, so it was important to plan ahead and to be organized because my job doesn’t take a summer vacation!

Imagine how much harder that can be when you’re divorced!

A good child therapist or family law attorney might have ideas and resources to help you through this. In my role as a divorce attorney, I don’t limit myself to the law. If I can help parents with ideas for summer camps based on my own experiences, I do so! Sometimes working parents don’t have resources to help them navigate the summer months, and we as attorneys and professionals can be that resource because we’ve had experiences, both professionally and personally.

Either way, if you can be looser in the summer to allow some flexibility for your children, do it. You won’t be sorry!

When Do We Become Adults?

When Do We Become Adults?

When Do We Become Adults?

We live in a politically correct world where all people are supposed to be treated as equals. Which is why I found a recent family law case is particularly noteworthy.

In the legal system, a child becomes an adult when he or she turns 18. The court treats them like adults, punishes them like adults, gives them the freedoms and responsibilities of adults.

Not in the case of divorce.

Is it good that we treat children of divorce different from other children? I’m not sure. But we do treat them differently.

One instance of that occurs when an 18-year-old child is still in high school and living at home. In that case, a parent is still obligated to pay child support – until the age of 19 and a half, or until the child graduates high school, whichever comes first.

So if a parent is obligated to pay child support, shouldn’t the child be obligated to spend time with each parent as decreed in the divorce judgment?

You might think so.

The case I was arguing involved a child who did not want to go to his dad’s house for parenting time, but his dad still had to pay child support. He decided he didn’t like dad’s rules, so he lived with his mom.

I argued based on my interpretation of the relevant statute, (Section 722.27(1)(c) of the Child Custody Act), that the court had the authority to enforce the parenting time schedule set forth in the parties’ Judgment of Divorce.

Think about it practically: if the dad (my client) had to pay child support, then shouldn’t he also have the right to see his son and continue to parent him?

Shouldn’t the mom continue to be obligated to send the son over to dad’s house as she had to when he was younger than 18?

The Judge disagreed with my interpretation of the law.

“Oh, so now we’re going to treat children of divorce differently than other children?” I challenged – we do.

“Yes,” the Judge replied. “Maybe we are. They are having a different life experience, after all.”

Not only do I believe in consistency, but I believe the law requires it as well, so, in the case of divorce if the court can mandate that child support continue to be paid on behalf of a child, I believe the court should also modify or enforce the parenting time agreement.

My argument was that the statute provides the Court with the authority “to modify or amend its previous orders for proper cause shown or because of change of circumstances until the child reaches 18 years of age and, subject to section 5b of the support and parenting time enforcement act . . . [that requires a parent to pay child support] . . . until the child reaches 19 years and 6 months of age.

Simply put: if the Court wanted to enforce it, the precedent exists.

Said the Judge: “When you’re 18, you’re an adult in the eyes of the law. That’s the age of majority, and the courts don’t retain jurisdiction over you except for child support purposes. A parent still has to pay child support for that child until he/she graduates from high school or turns 19 1/2, whichever happens first.”

Interesting, isn’t it? If you are not divorced, when your child turns 18, you no longer have a legal obligation to support him/her. You also, legally, can’t make him/her attend school.

And yet, is that realistic if your child is still living in your house?

It comes down to a question of whether the law should say (more clearly and without fear of the unpopular result) that an 18-year-old child still needs guidance and parental support.

There are so many children in this country – and throughout the world – with no parents to guide their way. They are desperate for the love and nurturing that comes with guiding parental oversight. When we have it, we want to shrug it off.

I suggest that we look at a broader picture of “need” when it comes to family – parenting time may be a pain for an older teen, but that precious guidance a parent can offer is priceless. Let’s not throw away the very compass that has set us on the right course up until now.

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