Divorce Expert divorceonline.ca Advises More Time for "Access Parent" Over the Summer Months

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Relationships take time, something so-called "access parents" usually don't have enough of with their children during most of the year. But in the summer days are longer and vacation time replaces the usual routine of school and work. This makes summer ideal for wise parents to make sure the kids maintain a healthy relationship with both Mom and Dad after their divorce.

Usually it makes sense for our children to be with one parent most of the time and see the other parent on weekends or other scheduled access days. However, in the summer there should be more time available for the kids to spend with the parent they see less often through the year

This is the time of year when parents who have gone through a divorce should settle on summertime access for their children, counsels divorce expert Howard MacKinnon. School and work can take a back seat during at least portions of the summer months as vacations and warm weather activities raise interesting possibilities.

"Usually it makes sense for our children to be with one parent most of the time and see the other parent on weekends or other scheduled access days. However, in the summer there should be more time available for the kids to spend with the parent they see less often through the year," says MacKinnon.

MacKinnon, who designed an online divorce service and writes a blog about Canadian divorce issues, makes the following suggestions for divorced parents to keep in mind when figuring out the best summer access arrangements.

1. People and circumstances change. Children get older, their interests change and so do their needs. As a result, an access schedule that worked in the past may not continue to be in the best interests of the children now. Therefore, it is a good idea to take a fresh look at your summer access schedule and not just accept it because it has worked in the past.

2. It is alright to deviate from an existing court order or separation agreement if both ex spouses agree. The order or agreement certainly comes in handy if there is no agreement. However, it is always better for the children to have two caring and mature adults continually willing to re-examine things and make sure they get what they need. It is prudent to write out the changes that you have agreed to simply to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. Just a handwritten note signed and dated by both you and your ex should do the trick.

3. The kids may have their own agenda which is different from Mom's and Dad's. It is important for the kids to spend extra time with their access parent and that should be encouraged by both parents. But it also very important that the kids be allowed to be kids. If everyone works together there should be time for Mom and for Dad and for camp, baseball, soccer, etc. Maybe it isn't possible to fit everything in so try to prioritize and to overlap things where possible. For example, maybe it can be the access parent who gets the kids ready for camp, sees them off and welcomes them on their return.

4. Summer also presents opportunities for parents and children to participate together in various special events and activities such as summer holidays, family occasions, and special vacations. It is important for parents to work together to make it possible for the children to enjoy these events with the parent most closely associated to the event. If this is difficult to determine, perhaps one parent can take the kids this year and the other can take them next year.

On the other hand, such events may make the relatively little time the children spend with the "access" parent even more meaningful. Some consideration should be given to making sure the children get to spend some of these special times with that parent.

5. If the access parent is going to get extra time with the children over the summer he or she should be prepared to make the most of this time together. This might mean not only making the children your priority but making sure that they see that this is what you are doing. Perhaps turning off your cell phone, spending less time with your other friends or work for computer might be a good way to send this message to your kids and let them know how important they are to you.

As for the types of activities you engage in with your kids, the younger they are the more they will be happy just to be involved in whatever you are doing. As they get older it will be you that needs to find ways to involve yourself in their activities, even if it is just to show an interest when they get home.

MacKinnon says that the most important thing to remember is that the children are best served by parents who are flexible and willing to cooperate with each other rather than those who are confrontational and rigid.

"Whether or not parents had separated they still need to negotiate with each other and make compromises when planning summer activities with the children. Close relationships can be maintained best when everyone's needs and interests are respected," said MacKinnon.

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