^ Very good advice to document attempts for planning. OP said: "I can ask Ex in writing to let me know which dates he would like DS for the summer by a certain time, but will that hold up legally if issues come up?" And I think that you should put things in writing from now on, with plenty of lead time. I think that it would be legally binding as "establishing a pattern"... So if he breaks his written agreement with you more than 3 times, say, then you would have grounds for asking for a more binding legal contract (an amendment to the custody agreement) on the grounds that you are not able to maintain effective communication with him regarding his visitation. In general you are not likely to be able to enforce a single incident or occasional sporadic incidents of him changing plans because you are expected to be supportive of your son's relationship with his father.
Even if a parent doesn't plan well, they do get their visitation, by court enforcement and police escort if necessary.
It isn't uncommon for an uncooperative ex to take a passive-aggressive approach and carelessly or deliberately inconvenience the other parent. In this case maybe your ex simply did not consider that you assumed that this year would be the same as in prior years, and his "change of plans" (to your expectation) is not a lack of cooperation but just an innocent breakdown in communication.
Not all divorce & custody agreements have specific requirements for giving notice regarding visitations either unless the divorced couple agree to include it or there is a history of unreliability or requirement for supervised visits, etc. Sometimes even if there is a set schedule it can be amended or disregarded with little chance of compliance or penalty. The inconvenienced parent is often seen as being uncooperative or trying to interfere with or damage the relationship with the other parent's visitation rights if they complain. This has been a common problem arising from the "father's rights" movement; not that fathers don't have rights (or that it's entirely a gendered issue) but for the primary caregiver (has usually been the mother) parenting is "responsibility for the kids" where for the other parent (has been usually the father) it's "rights to the kids."
I think that this is an area long overdue for reform, with better legislation and higher standards of care to protect the children and primary caregivers. It seems quite unreasonable to assume that parents who decided to end their relationship will be able to cooperate well and respect the other for the duration of the child-rearing years regarding schedules, money, and lifestyle choices - issues that may have contributed to the dissolution of their relationship in the first place. Sometimes things go well until someone remarries or starts another relationship, or until someone wants to relocate, or if there are money problems... Sometimes they start out badly but get better, too. But I think it would be best for there to be a more standardized, formal, and enforceable structure for custody that would better ease the natural tensions that will arise between divorced parents because the strain of that relationship is very hard on everyone, including the kids. Expecting the parents to just work it out or "supervise" the other regarding compliance with their agreement doesn't seem to work for a lot of people. Maybe state-mandated periodic reviews and revisions during a hearing with a court officer could help mediate difficulties and ensure that the situation is working for everyone. Also "soft" agreements at the beginning of the process could be prohibited because although the parents may have good intentions life can get more complicated, especially in family relationships. Honestly I can't think of another formalized contract you can make with another person that can be as undefined as a custody agreement; a simple credit card contract is far more detailed and binding than the agreements we make regarding our children.
Last edited by pumabearclan; 06-24-2014 at 10:39 AM.