I'm wondering if anyone could give me some insight into what your long distance visitation schedule looks like if your child attends a year round school. Our school system has recently changed to a "balanced" school year, which means they are out of school on June 12 and resume August 8 this year. There are two weeks of fall break, two weeks Christmas break and two weeks of spring break. DS is in a hybrid K-12 school where he is at home three days and in class two. Our current (and seemingly outdated) visitation arrangement with his father, four states away, is one week of Christmas break, one week at spring break and seven weeks of the summer. The current school we're in works for that scheduling but we are unhappy with the curriculum and my son is not thriving there...he needs more stimulation and movement. A new school opened up this year that is a part of the public school system (read: free!) and it's a Reggio Emilia school. We visited it, we loved it and DS wants to attend there next year. AND it's much closer than our current school. Unfortunately, I'll have to address visitation with a generally uncooperative ex. I just wonder, if any of you are in similar school/visitation scenarios, what your visitation looks like?
We don't have that schedule, but we looked at a year-round school for my step-daughter and did discuss what visitation would look like in that context. We live far away from my step-daughter's mom and she goes to school near her mom. With the traditional school year schedule, we basically have my step-daughter with us any time she is out of school, plus a couple days at Thanksgiving she is not out of school but we pull her out for extra time... with the exception of 1/2 of Christmas break every other year (we think it is important she get to have Christmas day at both houses) and 2 weeks in the summer so Mom can go on vacation with her. My husband goes there to see her every month as well, usually when there is a long weekend from school... but again, we make sure mom gets at least one or two long weekends a year because it is important that she have that opportunity with mom as well.
So, with that as our basis, when we looked at shifting the schedule for year-round school, we basically tried to mimic it as closely as possible. In our case the breaks were approx 2 months in the summer, a month in the winter, and two weeks in the spring, as well as a couple days at Thanksgiving and a couple long weekends. What we planned was to continue two weeks to mom in the summer and the rest with dad, every spring with dad. Winter break would have alternated-- one year the whole break would be with dad, the alternate years dad would have the beginning of break until right before Christmas (I don't remember exactly when the break came). On years that she wasn't here for Christmas she also would come for a week at Thanksgiving. That wasn't a perfect solution because it meant flying out for the week of Thanksgiving, back for two weeks of school, then out again for three weeks of winter break... but it was the best we could come up with. Dad had been granted every Christmas break by the court but was voluntarily giving up half of it every other year, so we talked about taking all of Christmas and not alternating, or giving up less time at Christmas by having her return after Christmas every year, we also talked about dad having an extra week in the summer on years that he lost time at Christmas (instead of making up that time at Thanksgiving) ... no solution was perfect, so we tried to just stick with what everyone was used to (alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving).
We would have continued with the school-year visitation in mom's state as it stood-- on weekend a month, priority for long/holiday weekends, and two non-consecutive weeks during the school year (with dad traveling there, not her traveling here).
In dealing with an uncooperative ex, I would try to make it mimic the current schedule as much as possible and make sure he wasn't losing time overall. From the perspective of the distant family with less parenting time, I actually LOVED the idea of the year-round schedule because it gave us bigger chunks of time spread throughout the year... when she is only here for a week or a week and a half, you feel like everyone is just settling in when it is time for her to go back to school... so he might actually like this schedule change if he is not losing time (and possibly gaining larger chunks of quality time).
Hope that was helpful!
Aricha...thanks for the response! I have tried to offer a suggested schedule that gives him the same amount of time that he has now but broken up more throughout the year obviously. I am still offering FIVE of the seven weeks of summer (I am doing this because I want DS for two weeks in the middle of the summer for our huge family vacation that takes him to the ocean to see extended family. This breaks up the summer visit but it's the ONLY time we can do this vacation). He came back to me and said that he wants 42 CONSECUTIVE days of the 49 days of summer break. He also doesn't want *more* visits...because it will cost him more money. Even though it will be GREAT for DS to be able to see him more frequently. *sigh*. There really is no being reasonable with ex and I know we'll end up in court over this.
I doubt we would have agreed to have mom choose two weeks in the middle of the summer for her vacation, regardless of the good reason. Actually, now that I think of it, there was one year we agreed to let her fly back in the middle of the summer for a week, but it was because her mom had a baby and that was important for her to be a part of. Also, mom was responsible for the full cost of that mid-summer travel, unlike the usual arrangement when they each pay for my step-daughter's travel to their home (so we pay for trips to come here, mom pays for the trips to her state). Perhaps if you offered to pay the entire cost (or at least a disproportionate share) of the extra travel required to break up the summer vacation, he would be willing to not have uninterrupted time? Also, if you can shorten your two weeks, you might be more willing to get your ex's agreement-- if my step-daughter only had 7 weeks of summer, I can't IMAGINE my husband willingly giving up two of them. The court granted us the entire summer vacation, less a few days at the beginning and end of the summer to allow her to transition.
As for the 42 out of 49 days, that is essentially the proportion the courts gave us-- a few days to get ready to leave and a few days to adjust to being back before school starts. However, because we think the vacation time is so valuable to families, and because my step-daughter is here for EVERY school break every year, we offered an additional week in the summer (mom chooses either the beginning or end of the summer) so my step-daughter would have 10 days or so for vacation with mom and her family there.
Even if it does end up in court, it is a good idea to have at least your end of the discussion framed in terms of what is best for your son... the importance of bonding time, the benefits of more frequent contact, and your attempts to maximize his time with his father whenever that time is available. My husband and his ex have a relatively high-conflict relationship, but they were able to work things out in mediation at times... I don't know if that is an option for you. Unfortunately, because you are the one who wants the change, it lies with you to convince dad or take it back to court to ask for the change. Your best bet might be to convince him that what you want is what the court is likely to give you anyway, so he should be part of the conversation and come up with some terms of his own before one is handed to him by a judge, like it or not.
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