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Bullet Proofing Your Summer Parent Time – Part 1 of 4 Series

BULLET PROOF ADVANCE NOTICE

Note:  This is the first of four blog postings on bullet proofing your summer parent time, that I’ll publish in as many weeks.  You will want to read them all.

At the time I write this, spring has sprung.  It’s hard for me at a time like this to decide whether spring or fall is my favorite season.  This has got to be one of the most gorgeous spring times I can ever remember in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I live.  The grass is as green as it’ll ever be, the air is fresh and cool (yet comfy), and we’re all celebrating the end of winter and the coming of summer.

For many a divorced parent, however, the coming of summer fills them with dread. Once again, you worry that you’ll have to fight with your ex over scheduling time with the children during summer vacation.

If this is your first summer after your decree of divorce was entered, you may foolishly believe that you simply dust off your Decree of Divorce, go to the page in paragraphs in your parenting plan that describe how summer scheduling is governed, and plan accordingly.  While I hope that you have an ex-spouse who is reasonable and fair, if you don’t, then you should not expect scheduling summer visitation or parent time with the kids to be a pleasant experience.

Whether you are the primary custodial parent, the “non-custodial” parent, or share custody with your children, there are myriad ways to (pardon my language) screw with the other parent over parent-time and child custody.  Some parents love to do it!, and for certain reasons; in no particular order:

  1. Sore losers Type A.  If your ex didn’t get what he or she wanted in the divorce (whether had to do a child custody or some other issue or issues in your divorce), a great way to be a sore loser is to get you where you’re most vulnerable– your relationship with your kids.
  1. Sore losers Type B.  Another category of sore loser is the parent who feels that he or she has a right to the child custody arrangement he or she wants regardless of the child custody and parent-time award the court actually ordered.
  1. Crazy exes.  Many of you (and you know who you are) got divorced because your spouse was crazy.  Your children form a virtually indestructible link to the other parent her children.  While your divorce cut you loose from marriage to a crazy spouse, it is impossible to escape a crazy co-parent.
  1. Evil, vengeful exes.  See “Crazy exes” above.

If you were married to a sore loser, a crazy person, and evil person, or a crazy evil person, you need to start now, well before school is dismissed for the summer, to ensure that your summer parent time and summer plans with the children are safeguarded.  Do not wait another moment.  Start today, and you can do so by implementing some of these suggestions for providing BULLET PROOF ADVANCE NOTICE:

  1. Regardless of whether your decree of divorce provides that you and your ex must agree upon a summer schedule for time-sharing between you and your ex with the children, or your decree of divorce sets out a specific schedule assigned to each parent, notify your ex—no less than 60 days before school is dismissed—of your plans for summer for the children.*
  1. DO NOT force or ask your children to provide notice to your ex.
  1. If you are reading this when there is less than 60 days before school is dismissed for the summer, give as much advanced notice as you possibly can.
    1. Do this in writing;
    2. Do this in a detailed writing;
    3. Do this in a detailed writing that bears the date you sent it;
    4. Do this in a detailed writing that bears the date you sent it and that you can prove was delivered to your ex.  There are several ways to approach this.  The tried-and-true method of sending a letter by certified mail or FedEx that your ex has to sign for, proving it was received.  You can hand deliver a letter to your ex’s house, and take it to the door or place it under the mat, and take a picture of it (make sure the date stamp function on your camera is turned on).  You can send your ex an e-mail with a request to confirm when it has been received and/or read.  Most of the popular e-mail apps have this feature, so if you don’t know how to use it, ask a friend or go online to get instructions.
    5. Include in your written notice the following statements and information:
i.     The reference in your decree of divorce to the provisions for the summer schedule (feel free to attach a copy of those pages from the decree, if you believe it will be helpful and provide clarity);
ii.     A statement describing and explaining your understanding of how the schedule in the decree of divorce works and what part(s) of the summer that entitles you and the children to exercise together this year;
iii.    The dates you intend to have the children in your care and custody for your period(s) of summer parent time;
iv.    If you will be traveling outside the state of Utah during summer parent-time with the children (or outside the state in which you reside, if you live outside the state of Utah already), provide your ex with:
  • Your travel itinerary, including the dates of travel and your destinations;
  • The name and address of places where the children and you will be lodging and can be reached during your travels;
  • The name and telephone number of an available third person who would be knowledgeable of your and the children’s location during your travels.

Even if you really don’t want your ex to know this much about your summer vacation plans what you’ll be doing, this is a concession worth making because it shows how responsible you are makes it extremely difficult for your vindictive ex (if that’s the kind of ex you have) to complain of being kept in the dark or being worried sick about his or her precious children.

Note:  If you plan to travel outside the country during your summer parent time, make sure you made that abundantly clear to your ex.

Be sure to secure your children’s passports and proper parental consent, so that you will not be barred from boarding the plane, boat, or train.  Click here for more information and direction from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency of the office of Homeland Security about obtaining parental consent that will pass muster with Customs and Border protection.

 

Even if you will be traveling within the United States, but on commercial flight, bus, boat, or train, you will want to get a parental consent or letter that the Customs and Border Protection agency will accept.

 

  1. If your decree of divorce include a provision that the parties must first attempt to resolve a dispute in mediation before they can ask the court to resolve the dispute, make sure your written notice contains a statement such as, “If you dispute my interpretation of the summer parent time provisions of our decree and how I have asserted they apply, please speak to me immediately so that we can resolve any questions of interpretation and make our respective summer parent time plans without any conflict.  If you would prefer to meet in mediation instead of speaking or meeting with me alone, please notify me immediately of an acceptable choice of mediator who is available to meet with us immediately, and I will schedule that mediation to take place as soon as possible.”  Including this language in your notice
  2. Don’t be afraid to provide your notice in more than one form.  For example, it would be not just wise, but very wise to send your letter, if possible for you, by certified mail or by FedEx, and also by e-mail, and by hand-delivery, so that it is harder for your ex to claim “I don’t check my mail” or “I don’t check my e-mail” or “I never enter my house through the front door or ever gaze down at my doormat.”
  3. Don’t be afraid to provide this notice on more than one occasion.  If you send notice at least 60 days before school is dismissed, and you don’t get a response from your ex within a week or so, send another notice.
  4. And don’t just send your original notice a second time.  Instead, take a copy of your original notice and attached to it a cover note stating something like, “Attached to this cover note is a copy of a previous notice I sent to you on [DATE], but to which you have not yet responded.  I am resending you the original notice, and ask that you respond within the next three days, so that you and I can make summer plans with the children without our schedules conflicting.”
  5. If your decree allows you to make telephone or personal contact with your ex, try to give telephone and/or personal notification of your summer parent time plans to your ex as well.  If it’s possible to have a witness to this telephone or personal contact when you make it, that would be helpful.  After you make telephone and/or personal contact with your ex about your summer parent time plans, record this in your calendar or a journal, noting the date, time, place, and any witnesses to when you gave the notice.
  6. If, after you have sent to written notices (one notice a week for two weeks), you have not received any response—in writing—from your ex confirming receipt of the notice AND either approval of your travel plans or a counter proposal, do not try to give any further notice, it’s time for you to go straight to court.

Ah, but wait—many Utah decrees of divorce include a provision that before the parties can come to court to resolve the dispute, they must first attempt to resolve their dispute in mediation. Such a provision often trips up a parent who is otherwise doing a good job of policing his/her summer parent time rights.  How?

Well, at least 60 days before your summer parent time was to commence, you dutifully provided written notice, which your ex blew off for two weeks, and so then you proposed mediation, and duly sent notice of that once a week for two weeks.  Now you’re down to 30 days before your summer parent time is scheduled to kick in.  But your divorce decree says you have to try to go to mediation before you can go to court.  And your ex is ignoring your efforts to schedule mediation.  This is why I advised you in sub paragraph 1(f) to proposed mediation in your original notice.

By proposing mediation in your original notice, this makes it far easier for you to go directly to court after you have given notice and been ignored because you can show the court that but for your ex’s failure and refusal to meet in mediation, you were more than willing to do so, but not too much time has passed to address the matter in mediation successfully, thus requiring court intervention before it’s too late to make a difference.

My next blog posting discusses how to seek court assistance to enforce your summer parent time, if the need arises.  Answers to general Child Custody and Parent Time Visitation can be found here.

If you are someone who is already experiencing issues with your Summer Parent Time, and need to speak to somebody now, click below:

 

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