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Previous poster wants advice on summer vacation to propose for noncustodial father

Your Question:
Hi Eric...your advice has been so helpful in the past. I have a simple question about drafting a parenting plan. I know that there is no set "standard" that courts use to construct a contact schedule. However, considering your experience, don't you think it is unusual for a NCP father only to have day visits during the summer? My husband currently has 2 weekday visits (until 3 p.m) and EOW in the summer. Based on research we have conducted (books, articles, etc.) most NCP's get 2-8 weeks in the summer. His ex is refusing to do a split summer or split week schedule saying it is "too disruptive." Again, we are normal, loving, sane, competent, professional people who just want more parenting time with DH's children. Thanks.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing again.

People shouldn't try to compare their situation to anyone else's. All situations and families are different, including the paths to the present scenario. The path that led to the current issues is often a relevant factor in understanding the potential for future decisions.

So, while it's certainly not unreasonable that a father would have vacation time over the summer, the path that has led to your husband's current situation plays a key role in why he doesn't. He has gotten the short end of the stick due to an unreasonable mother who won't give an inch without a major fight. Other noncustodial parents may not face the same barrier.

You've written to me before, and I know you're going for a modified parenting plan anyway.

It would be reasonable for your parenting plan to propose to give each parent 2 to 4 weeks of vacation every summer. Make sure that your language is tight, so be sure to cover:

  • "Summer vacation" starts on the day after the end of school and ends the day before school starts.
  • In odd years, mother will have first choice of summer vacation weeks. In even years, father will have first choice. The parent entitled to first choice will provide written notice by April 30 of their choice, and the other parent will provide written notice by May 15.
  • Summer vacation shall supercede normal custodial time. Holidays (e.g., July 4) and special days (e.g., birthdays) outlined elsewhere in orders shall supercede summer vacation.
  • The vacation weeks shall not be split up. Or if you want the ability to separate the weeks, then specify that each week must be taken whole, and not separated into smaller increments.
  • Consider that in my THIRD version of vacation orders, which are finally tight enough to avoid problems, they specify that a vacation week shall not exceed seven days including regular custodial time. Without such clause, a particularly manipulative parent will always start a vacation at the end of a long stretch of parenting time (e.g., the normal 4 day custodial weekend immediately followed by 7 days of vacation).

In your arguments, you can mention that neither you nor husband work during the summer (you told me this in another email) and that the husband wishes to take these two children on vacation with their half-siblings (from another email you sent), which the current custodial schedule does not allow. These are pertinent points.

My guess would be that you're more likely to get 2 weeks of vacation than 4 weeks, but if you start by asking for 2 weeks, it's not like a judge or the mother would negotiate UP from there. So, you may wish to initially propose 3 or 4 weeks for each parent. Given what you've described of your situation, I don't think your husband would get the majority of summer for his own custodial time. You can try, but if you get shot down by the court, you don't get squat. I think a judge would find it more reasonable to hear Dad say, "Look, each parent should have an opportunity to have some quality summer vacation time with the kids that would allow for a nice long family trip every year. That's all I'm asking for."


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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