A stress-free summer for kids and co-parents: How to co-parent during summer breaks and holidays

Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Sunaina Kakkar shares four tips for co-parents on how to navigate the summer months and vacations

Legal Aid AB
July 31, 2023

There’s still a month left of summer break for many families across Alberta, and for divorced or separated parents, making summer plans for the kids isn’t always an easy feat. Between vacations, camping trips or visits with family, it can feel overwhelming trying to navigate co-parenting while trying to ensure everyone has an enjoyable summer. Here are a few tips from Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Sunaina Kakkar for co-parents to help ease the stress for everyone involved:

  1. Preparation is key.

“You want to make sure you plan at least two to three months in advance,” says Kakkar. “This leaves ample time for parents to negotiate before summer starts, and if negotiations fall through, there is still time to go to court.”

Summertime isn’t the only season to consider when planning. With kids going back-to-school, winter breaks and birthdays, co-parents can avoid conflict with a written parenting agreement or court order that outlines the parenting time between each parent throughout the year.

While it may vary between families, co-parents can create a plan for what every year will look like and take a fair approach to negotiations – “for example, if you get two weeks for uninterrupted vacation time with the children, your co-parent can also be granted two weeks of time.”

  1. Open channels for communication.

During extended periods apart or a vacation out of town, communication is critical. Giving the kids an opportunity to connect with their other parent brings both comfort and relief – and builds that rapport for trust between parents.

  1. Prepare a travel consent form, a full itinerary and other documentation for travel plans.

Whether it’s a camping trip or visiting a different country, Kakkar says a detailed itinerary and a signed travel consent form are necessary to establish trust for both parents to come to an agreement. “You need to provide an itinerary that includes where you’re staying, the dates for travel and contact information” alongside a signed travel consent form to present to officials.

For countries that are not signatories of the Hague Convention, this step is especially crucial: in addition to a full itinerary, both the Court and the co-parent must be informed of your intention to return. Having the proper documentation, like school registration for the children, employment or duration of the trip, can help “prove that you have a substantial connection to your residence in the city.”

Clear communication also comes in handy in situations where travel is involved – particularly if one parent does not agree. “Both parents need to agree, and sometimes there are negotiations where you have to meet in the middle and come to agree to the terms,” says Kakkar. A parent may ask for terms like providing one month’s notice before travel, extended parenting time, or scheduled phone calls or video chats as reassurance that they are involved in the process.

  1. Put the kids first before conflict.

Kakkar reminds parents that at the end of the day, children are only young for so long – and putting the kids first is critical. “It’s the right of the child to enjoy summer,” she says, and putting their needs first and setting aside conflicts allows the children to enjoy their summer break, and create cherished memories with their loved ones.

The summer season can present some new challenges for co-parents, but the right approach can be a rewarding experience for everyone in the family. With a written plan, agreement, and strong communication, both parents can make a stress-free and memorable summer for the kids.

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