With just a few weeks left in the school year, Ontario children are looking forward to two whole months of long, hot, homework-free days stretching ahead of them. But while summer vacation is usually a fun time for kids, managing childcare and the associated financial obligations while kids are off all day can be stressful for parents. For separated or separating parents, there are even more issues to deal with, all while trying to preserve the care-free feeling of summertime for their children. Luckily, with some forethought and, if possible, open communication with the other parent, you can shed a large number of summertime stressors.
First, try to plan a summer schedule well in advance. This means thinking about what time you will take off work, whether you plan to travel with the children, and whether you want to deviate from the regular schedule for the less structured summer months. During school summer vacation, many parents choose to vary the regular parenting schedule, but make sure to do so only with the other parent’s consent. Just as there are many different ways to set up a regular parenting schedule, there are also many ways to set up a summer schedule. Typical schedules involve parents choosing blocks of one or two weeks when they will have the children. Having the kids for longer, uninterrupted blocks of time is necessary if you are planning a special trip, and may be useful in many other situations; for example, if the kids are in camp significantly closer to one parent. Think about what your plans will be and what works for both parents, and then come up with a workable schedule. To save you having to come up with a whole new schedule every summer, include a general summer schedule in a separation or parenting agreement. Note that it is often helpful to leave some room for flexibility in case of unforeseen future circumstances, like a month-long trip of a lifetime with one parent.
Second, discuss childcare with the other parent and consider the associated fees. If children have to be in camps as a form of childcare, such camps will likely constitute section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines, or “special and extraordinary” expenses. That is, they are particular expenses that the parents share in proportion to their income. This does not mean one parent can unilaterally enrol a child in the most expensive camp they can find and require the other parent to pay their share, but it does mean that one party may not have to shoulder the entire cost of summer camps. Where possible, parents should discuss what camps children will attend as well as how the associated fees will be shared.
Third, if you are planning any out-of-country vacations, remember to let the other parent know and, if necessary, take any additional steps, such as obtaining travel authorizations. You can read our previous post about travelling alone with children here.
With some added advance planning, summer has the potential to be a special season for parents and children alike, providing a much-needed break from the humdrums of our daily routines.