Summer Visitation

It is common in divorce and custody cases in Iowa and Illinois for the court to award a non-custodial parent (a parent who does not have primary physical care) an extended block of visitation in the summer months.  Summer visitation is also commonly awarded to both parents so that each parent can have an opportunity to take a vacation or otherwise spend time with the child.  Summer visitation can be a great opportunity for a parent to spend more time with a child, but it can also be a source of contention.

In cases where one parent has primary physical care of a child, and the other parent has visitation, it is common for the parent who has visitation to be awarded a large block of time in the summer months.  While each case is different, 4 or even 6 weeks of time in the summer is not uncommon.  Factors such as the age of the child, the relationship between the parent and child, the child’s school schedule, and the distance between the non-custodial parent and child will influence the specifics of summer visitation.  Situations where there is a large distance between the parties that makes an every-other-weekend type visitation situation impractical often result in a longer block of time in the summer and at other holidays.

A block of time in the summer is also often awarded to the parent who has primary physical care.  The purpose of doing so is to ensure that parent is also able to take the child on a vacation or to go see relatives.  This is out of recognition of the fact that children benefit from being able to spend a block of time during school breaks on vacation or with relatives who are not often seen, as the memories that are formed during such visits last a lifetime.

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Even in cases where the parents have shared physical care, it is common for the court to give each parent a block of time in the summer longer than their normal shared care blocks.  For example, in a situation where the parties have shared care of a child on schedule where mom has the child for a week and then dad has the child for a week, the court may give each parent a block of 2 or 3 weeks.  That way, vacation planning is easier and there is an opportunity for a longer time spent with the child without interruption.

Summer visits can also result in misunderstandings or even deliberate attempts by a party to cause problems with the other party’s plans.  Misunderstandings often arise due to a failure of one or both parents to properly read the court Order that sets forth the summer visitation schedule.  Other times, a poorly drafted court Order will cause unnecessary confusion.  Some parents will, sadly, try to violate the court Order for summer visitation.  Avoiding such problems relating to summer visitation is best done by working with one’s attorney well before the visits are set to begin, as doing so can avoid the heartache of missing a summer visit that cannot easily be made up during the school year.