If you think there will be arguments over summer parenting time, the time to get a lawyer to help you resolve your vacation schedules is now.
Summer Holidays Parenting Time
As the school year winds down and the weather heats up, separated parents in British Columbia and across Canada are gearing up for negotiations. It’s that time of year when separation agreements or court orders are dusted off and reviewed to determine the sharing of a finite resource: summer parenting time.
The summer is a particularly important time for parents and children because it is the time of year when we get to make long-lasting family memories, have uninterrupted time for visits with out-of-town family or to exotic locales, and accumulate some bonding time within the family.
Need to Negotiate the Summer Holidays with your Ex? Start Early
You would be surprised at the length of time that parenting time negotiations can take, so parents should be thinking about starting discussions for this year, either between themselves or through counsel, without delay.
Steps to Negotiating Summer Parenting Time
- Review any written agreements or court orders that reference the time your children are to spend with you and your Ex.
- Does the agreement or order specify a summer schedule? If so, that’s your starting point.
- Does the agreement or order specify a method of dispute resolution in case of a disagreement? If yes, then take steps to follow that method. For example, if you have a mediation clause in your agreement, and you want to change the parenting time for the summer, book that mediation as soon as possible.
- Develop a clear position on when you want to have the children in your care, and why it is important that they be in your care at that time.
For example, do you want to take them out of the province for a couple of weeks? Identify which days you propose to leave and return, where you want to take the children, and how the children could make up the time with the other parent (if appropriate). Alternatively, do you want to propose a different schedule for the summer since the children are no longer beholden to a school schedule? For some families a 50-50 parenting schedule is impractical where one parent lives far from the school; a move to more equal parenting may be possible in the summertime.
What if you Can’t Agree on a Summer Parenting Time Schedule?
If you can’t resolve the sharing of parenting with a discussion, then you should consider hiring a lawyer help you with negotiations. Remember that the guiding principle in any negotiations related to your children will be what is in their best interests. A BC family lawyer can help you brainstorm creative solutions that meet the needs of both you, your Ex and your children, give you advice about what to expect should the matter end up in court, and manage the correspondence with your Ex’s lawyer, if it comes to that. A BC family lawyer will review your options, and their pros and cons so that you can consider what works best for you and your family.
If Things get Heated, Consider Parenting Coordination
You may also consider retaining a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator is typically an impartial family lawyer hired by both parties, who will hear each party’s side and then make a binding determination about temporary changes to the parenting schedule. This can be a much more cost-efficient way to resolve a dispute because the parties don’t need to retain lawyers to attend a contested court application. More information about parenting coordinators can be found here: http://www.bcparentingcoordinators.com/.
The Last Resort: Application to Court
If negotiations fail, and you do not want to retain a parenting coordinator, then the last step is an application to court. You can bring an application to court by filing a Notice of Application and supporting affidavit. Be sure to serve the opposing party with sufficient days’ notice (8, 12, or 21 business days, depending on whether the order is interim, final, or varying a previous order). Based on these time frames, the best time to apply for July and August parenting time is the beginning of June, and parents who need to retain counsel would be wise to do so in early May, i.e., now.
The Factors a Court Considers
At an application, the court will consider factors relevant to the best interests of the children. For example, the court may consider the benefit to the children of going on a holiday with a parent, the benefit to the children of visiting with out-of-town relatives, the reasonableness of the parenting time proposed by the applicant parent, childcare during summer months when many children are off school. The result will turn on the individual facts of your case.
If you want to develop a parenting schedule for summer but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can assist you through the process. To find out how one of our family lawyers could assist you, contact us.