Perhaps, last summer, you and your spouse were still together. You may not have been happy, but you were living together and so planning for summer vacation for your grade-school aged children wasn’t all that hard. You just tackled it like you had in the past.

This year, you’re divorced. You have to figure out exactly how to share time and plan for the summer, something you’ve never done before. Below are a few tips that can help.

1. Understand your custody agreement.

Know exactly what rights and obligations you have. Understand what the court decided when you split up. There are ways to get around some of this – you can alter the weekly plan for trips, for example – but start off by knowing where you both stand and working from there.

2. Focus on communication.

Talking to your ex is the last thing on your list of preferred activities, but you must do it. Communicate and plan together. Never do anything, like taking a trip out of the state, without talking to your ex first. The biggest problems arise when two people simply fail to communicate or assume they can do whatever they want.

3. Put the kids first.

The whole thing gets easier if you focus on the kids first. Each decision you and your spouse make should focus on them, on making their summer vacation as great as it can be. Put yourself second to their needs and desires.

4. Be detailed.

When telling your ex what trips you want to take this summer, provide details. Don’t just propose some vague idea for a trip in June or July. Tell your ex when you want to leave, where you’ll go, what you plan to do, and when you’ll return. Providing more information keeps your ex in the loop and reduces conflict.

5. Stick to the schedule.

Yes, it may sound fun to stay on the road for an extra few days if you’re having a good time and don’t have any work obligations to rush back to. However, if you gave your ex an itinerary, stick to it. He or she expects to see the kids when you get back and variations can spark legal disputes if you violate your spouse’s rights.

In a lot of ways, the key is to plan like you were still married. That could make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but it helps you get all of the information on the table. Talk freely and openly, be willing to compromise – you get to take a trip with the kids in June, for instance, if he or she can take one in August – and work hard on behalf of your kids. The entire time, always make sure you know your legal rights as a parent.

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