A friend of mine called me all worked up. She wants to take a summer vacation with her kids. But the week that she can take off work is the same week her ex-husband wanted to take vacation with the kids. She explained to me that summer can be the most challenging time of year for divorced parents. She and her ex-husband must negotiate her children's summer activities, their vacation schedules, their camp schedules, who will pay for camp and whether there's child care coverage for the full summer.
"It can be expensive and it can get ugly" she told me.
Roberta Stanley, a partner who practices family law at Brinkley Morgan, says she's been called in when all kinds of summer challenges arise for divorced parents. Some of the typical issues that arise are whether parents can take kids out of the country on vacation, who will pay for summer camp, and what age is appropriate to make a child get a summer job. Stanley points out that an arrangement negotiated as part of a divorce settlement when a child is 5 may need revision when a child turns 15.
For her part, Stanley says she tries to get as specific as possible when she writes up an agreement between divorced parents concerning summer,kids and work schedules. "If you're specific and there's a dispute, you don’t have to pay lawyer again because everyone knows how it works, she said. "Specifics breed flexibility and cooperation. A parent realizes that if I don’t cooperate when you need a deviation, you won’t cooperate when I need one."
Divorce attorney Barry Finkel says work schedules almost always play a big factor in summer challenges for divorced parents. For example, one parent may want to take an extended vacation; the other may have a job that affords little time off. "If one parent wants to take the child on a trip, try to work out the schedule well enough in advance to schedules can be juggled or changes can be made," he says.
Vicki Larson recently wrote an interesting piece titled: "Is Divorce Easier If You Don't Have Kids?" Her conclusion — sometimes, but not always. I wonder what my friend battling over summer issues with her ex would think about that conclusion?
Yes, even without kids, divorce can present challenges at work. A recent article in the Sun Sentinel focused on how the stress of a divorce can potentially hurt someone's career. "Those going through divorce may find their employer subpoenaed for information, their business in jeopardy or their chance for a promotion disappearing," the article noted.
On the flip side, Elinor Robin, a family mediator in Boca Raton, told the Sentinel that people often do better in their careers after divorce. "In the long run, divorce may ultimately prove to be a career booster. … When the focus is off the marriage, the focus can be on the career," she said.
My conclusion: divorce sounds stressful. It appears pretty obvious that summer, kids, work schedules and ex-spouses can be a lot to juggle. Yet, it seems to me it's well worth the effort to make the balancing act as pain free as possible.