Summer Visitation FAQs

These summer visitation FAQs can help you understand your rights concerning visitation during the summer months.

By | Answers by Brette Sember, J.D.

While adapting to a regular visitation schedule can be challenging for divorced parents, there is also the issue of summer visitation to contend with. With school out and longer days filled with endless possibilities for fun, it's important to have an agreed-upon plan in place to ensure that both parents can enjoy quality time with their kids.

A standard summer visitation schedule varies from the regular school year schedule and often involves the non-custodial parent having extended visitation periods with the children. While specific schedules can vary by state, a common summer visitation schedule typically includes the non-custodial parent having the children for two to four weeks at a time. However, every family's situation is unique, and parents should work together to create a schedule that works best for their specific needs and circumstances.

Generally, the non-custodial parent gives advance notice to the custodial parent which weeks during the summers should be designated for summer visitation. Parents also need to take into considerations any summer school, camps, or extracurricular activities their children will be participating in when working out the schedule. Both parents should also openly communicate with the other parent about any travel plans and itineraries that involve the children.

It's important to note that the summer schedule may also affect the regular weekly or monthly visitation schedule, so it's essential for both parents to review and agree upon the summer visitation plan in advance. Overall, the goal of a standard summer visitation schedule is to ensure that both parents have ample time to create lasting memories with their children during the summer months.

Parenting plans generally address these issues, but problems still crop up as outlined by the questions below:

Summer Visitation FAQs

Is there a standard custody rotation between parents over the summer?

Stephanie's Question: What is the standard custody rotation between parents over the summer? My ex only lives a mile from my house, but wants to do SIX WEEK rotations for the summer so they can go live with his fiancée in another state. Is his request reasonable? Our current agreement was one week, which I graciously adjusted to two week rotations to support his job.

Brette's Answer: There is no standard for summers. Some families alternate weeks or months. Others stay with their regular plan and give the noncustodial parent a few weeks of vacation time. If it is the same amount of time just allocated differently and there is a good reason for it, it would not seem to be an unreasonable request. 

Can he deny my requested summer visitation and make me pick other times?

Kacie's Question: Our divorce papers state that I get 4 weeks during summer break; 2 weeks at a time separated by at least 2 weeks and that I must submit the times I want in writing to my ex by April 1st. My ex thinks that he can deny any times I ask for and make me pick another time, but there is nothing in the papers insinuating or saying this. Can he deny the days I send to him and make me pick other times?

Brette's Answer: He can say no but if you cannot agree, then you have to go back to court and have the court decide. So it's best to try to work something out.

Is he required to take the kids for the full 4 weeks in the summer?

Ivy's Question: My ex-son-in-law is entitled to have the children for 4 weeks during the summer. But, he is only taking them for 1 week; Monday thru Friday, plus his weekend. Can he do this?

Brette's Answer: He doesn't have to take them for any specific amount of time. No one can force a parent to take visitation.

Can the 4 week summer visitation period be split up?

Tiffany's Question: It says in our parenting plan that my ex gets up to 4 consecutive weeks for his summer visitation. Does that mean he has to take all four weeks together or can he split them up?

Brette's Answer: Consecutive means all in a row. However, if you want to agree to something other than that, you can.

Do the regular exchange times apply to summer visitation?

Teresa's Question: The joint custody paperwork reads I get alternating weekends and am to pick the kids up from school Friday afternoon and drop them off at school Monday morning. Our papers also say I get 4 weeks in the summer. Do I still get my Friday through Monday during the summer or just the 4 weeks?

Brette's Answer: If the order does not specify a change for summer, you would stick to the same schedule. Normally this means you get your 4 weeks, then the rest of the summer you get the regular schedule, unless your ex has some specific vacation time as well.

Is regular visitation subtracted from or included in the summer visitation?

Ashley's Question: I am the custodial parent and the father is to get 2-3 weeks companionship for summer vacation visitation. Does this mean he gets to subtract the weekends and days that are already scheduled to him? If so, this would allow him to have 5 weeks.

Brette's Answer: Summer vacation visits are usually supersede other visitation. So if he has Weekend 1 and Weekend 3 as regular visits but takes his vacation over weekend 1 he doesn't get a makeup for his weekend visit on weekend 1. Check with your attorney for details about your schedule and your state laws. 

What if my work schedule makes summer visitation difficult?

Jo's Question: Brette, I am not the custodial parent. My divorce decree states I have visitation rights every other weekend, every other holiday and half of the summer. My work schedule does not always allow for me keep this schedule, and it is almost impossible to keep to the 1/2 summer. Am I obligated to keep this schedule? Also, my ex is constantly badgering me for extra can I get him to stop?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like you need to make some changes in your schedule. You can go to court or mediation to modify the plan so that it will work for you. If there is a child support order in place, your ex cannot require you to pay anything extra. If you are being harassed and it is truly becoming difficult to manage you could ask for a no-contact order

How is summer visitation handled if my son has to go to summer school?

Sarah's Question: If my ex has court appointed visitation for the summer with my son. What happens if my son has to take summer school?

Brette's Answer: Your child will go to summer school and the visitation schedule will be as ordered - so if school is during your ex's time, it's their responsibility to get your child to and from school. 

What does it mean if summer visitation should avoid school or camp hours?

Nancy's Question: The visitation court order has a phrase that states “summer visitation should be planned to avoid any school or camp hours or activities”. What does it mean?

Brette's Answer: I would interpret that to mean that the child has to be allowed to go to planned activities such as classes or camp. So if pick is supposed to be at 9 am but the child is at camp until 5 pm that is when pick up would happen. Check with your attorney who can review the actual order. 

Can visitation be modified due to scheduled activities and sports?

Jill's Question: My ex and I live far apart. Our 14 year old is in high school marching band, which requires practice and participation in the fourth of July parade and practice again starting the last week of July. She also plays sports for school which offer camps during the summer. She is supposed to spend 42 days out of the summer with her dad. She doesn't want to give up sports or band, but her dad is a 12 hour drive away. How does the court view this when our divorce decree states that visitation should not interfere with extracurricular school activities?

Brette's Answer: This is a good reason to ask for modification for this year and future years. Talk to your attorney about seeking to modify the order so that she can do her activities and still see him in a way that will not interfere. Your attorneys may be able to work this out without having to go back to court. 

Can I insist he come for summer visitation even though he’s in football?

Katie's Question: My sons reside with their father in Tennessee and I live in Michigan. The 14 year old joined football this year (YAY!!) and I'm excited for him. However, the summer conditioning runs May through August. My son says he doesn’t want to come up AT ALL for visitation. I proposed a 4 week window, of which there is no practice for 2 of those weeks. He still refused, claiming he'd be required to sit out 2 games (which the coach said isn’t true). Since the 4 weeks are within my court ordered parenting time, can I still insist they come up even if my son is saying he won't?

Brette's Answer: You can insist but your ex can refuse to send him, and then you will end up back in court where he will likely seek to modify the order. Then the determination is based on what is in the best interests of the child. I would suggest you try to work something out. Could you get more school holiday visits? Work out a few weekends over the summer? Come to visit him? Your son is at the age where the court will take his wishes into account so he does have influence over what would happen. Try to find something that lets your son go to his practices yet gives you time together. You could also go to mediation to get help working this out. Talk with your attorney about your rights and how to enforce them. 

Is it a violation if he waits until the weekend to drop her off?

Kristen's Question: I get my 6 year old daughter for summer vacations. It states in the court order, one week after school is over I get her. Now, my ex won't meet on the day that would be 1 week, he wants to drag it out until the weekend. And said who would pay his wages if he took a work day off to drive to drop her off? Is he in violation if he doesn't drop her off 1 week after school is out?

Brette's Answer: If that's what the order says, that's how it should be handled. Can't the exchange happen in the evening perhaps so it won't interfere with his work schedule?

Am I obligated to let my ex have them for a whole vacation period?

Gloria's Question: If I have full custody of my kids, do I have the obligation of letting the father have them for a whole vacation period? Do I have to let them go or not?

Brette's Answer: It depends on what your court order says. If he has time with them as agreed, it is only if you agree. If specific times are ordered you are required to send them on those days.

Can he take the kids overseas for a month during the summer?

Simona's Question: Here is the situation. My ex-husband is spending a lot of his summer vacation in Eastern Europe and he wants to take our 13 year old twin daughters with him for about a month. They refuse to go for various reasons: language barrier, homesickness and missing me, fear of flying, plus they fear their father will take them away against their will. Can he force them to fly to east Europe and how can I stop him?

Brette's Answer: If the custody order does not give him specific rights to this much visitation time then he is not automatically entitled to it. You need to talk to your attorney about what the best approach is. You can wait for him to file papers or you can file seeking the court to enjoin him from taking them.

Is he entitled to more summer visitation to make up for missing holidays?

Simona's Question: Our children are 4 and 5 and my ex-husband requested spring break, full summer break, and Christmas on odd years. This last year he cancelled Christmas and he cancelled spring break. Now he wants to have an extra week in the summer but we had agreed on 4 weeks to start off with (which I still believe is too long for such young children). I try to work with him and want them to see their dad but I am also tired of him pushing us around. Am I wrong to not give him more weeks in the summer to make up for his canceled visits that he had requested for?

Brette's Answer: No, you are not wrong. If he can't use the time he has scheduled, it is his loss. If he wants to modify the agreement, he can file with the court. You should consider what is best for your children though. Would they like more time with him? If so, when would it work best?

Do the kids have to go for summer visitation if he won't be there?

Question: My ex-husband and I have a standard joint custody agreement. He works in the oilfield, so he's at a rig for about a month and then comes back to town for a few days. I have been working with him on visitation because he can't guarantee he'll be in town on his weekends. I thought we'd continue to do the same throughout the summer. But he told me that he was going to take the kids to his brother's house and his 13 year old niece would babysit 5 kids. He would be working more than 300 miles away during this time, so he wouldn't even be with the kids. Is this something I can fight? I don't feel that any 13 year old can effectively care for 5 children, 4 of which are under 9 years old.

Brette's Answer: Visitation is for him, not a babysitter. If he won't be there, he doesn't get the time. And I agree that's too many kids for a young teen to be in charge of.

Is relocating considered a change of circumstances for summer visitation?

Trisha's Question: My son is now ten and for the last 4 1/2 years, our custody arrangement has been he goes to dad's every other weekend and one night a week. The last two summers we have gone every other week. He just took a PERMANENT transfer to a city 5 hours away. He wants visitation to remain the same, and have my son stay with his wife even when he isn't there. Doesn't this warrant a "change of circumstance?"

Brette's Answer: Yes it does. You need to work out a new plan, perhaps two weeks at a time.

What if my ex won't comply with the summer visitation schedule?

Jeanine's Question: My ex is the custodial parent and I am non-custodial. With summer coming I advised him which time periods that I wanted to have the kids. He told me that they would be spending a majority of the summer with me because he needed a break and that if I brought the kids to his house that he would not be there. Is there anything I could tell him so that he understands that he needs to be there with the kids? What do I do if he is not there to take care of them?

Brette's Answer: You can file with the court for a violation. The problem is that if he doesn't want them and you don't want them, you've got a problem. Would you be able to agree to an expanded summer schedule that would have them spend more time with you? Maybe there are grandparents who would like to spend some time with the kids. Good luck

How can I get my kids back if he violates the visitation order?

Melissa's Question: Our divorce decree states that my ex gets the kids for 2 weeks out of every summer, but I have always been lenient since he's in the military and does not see them any other time during the rest of the year. This year I let them go for 4 weeks, and when I tried to ask him where we should meet to pick them up (he lives 5 states away) he said he was not going to let them come home for 3 more weeks! What can I do to get them back?

Brette's Answer: You can file a violation with the court that ordered the visitation. You could also contact the police or perhaps his commanding officer and show them the order which he has clearly violated.

Can I pick her up when it is my court-ordered time to have her?

Liz's Question: My ex-husband and I live in different states. Our daughter spends summers with him and the school year with me. I'm scheduled to pick her up in two weeks but he's saying he will not let her return home with me. My grandparents (who live near him) watch our daughter while he is at work. Is it considered kidnapping if I pick her up from my grandparents and return home when it is my court-ordered time to have her?

Brette's Answer: If the order specifically states when the child is to be with each parent, you likely are within your rights. However, I would suggest you talk to your attorney before you do anything to be certain your order is clear about this.

Do I have to force my child to his dad's go for the summer?

Margie's Question: My 14 year old is refusing to go to her father's house this summer. I know I can be held in contempt, but how do I force her on a plane?

Brette's Answer: Your situation is a common one. As I'm sure you've noticed teens can be a bit difficult sometimes! I would suggest you find out what about the plan your daughter doesn't like. Is she going to miss her friends? Does she not like going to her dad's house? Find out what the problem is. Then talk to your ex. Get him involved in solving this. What you don't want is for this to become a "you versus him" situation. Instead, it should be the two of you working with your daughter to find a solution. There may be a compromise that will keep everyone happy - such as your oldest only going for part of the summer. Work together as a family to find a solution.

What if she wants to vacation with a friend during his summer visitation?

Elizabeth's Question: What can I do if my child wants to go vacation to see her friend in another state but it's during the summer when she has to go stay with her dad and he won't let her go?

Brette's Answer: You can talk to him and try to work it out or your other option is to go to court to ask the court to modify the order. Most courts will prioritize a parents' time over time with friends, unless this is a unique opportunity or there is some way to make up the time with him.

What if he only wants to take one of our kids for summer visitation?

Jill's Question: My ex is allowed to have 4 weeks of vacation with our children, ages 6 and 2. He often takes the 6 year old and leaves the 2 year behind (obviously, she is more demanding of his time and attention and I honestly believe this to be the reason he doesn't want her) He now wants to take a family vacation (with his parents, sister, and her 2 children) to the beach for a week. He has stated he will only be taking our 6 year old and not our 2 year old. I am opposed to splitting the kids like this. Can I refuse to allow him to pick and choose like this?

Brette's Answer: I agree with your feelings on this. He really needs to spend time with both kids and yes, 2 year olds are a handful, but the only way to continue a relationship is to spend time with her. Why not talk to him and point out he'll have his parents and his sister there to help, so it is an ideal time to have both kids. Lay on the guilt trip about how not only is he missing out, but the grandparents, cousins, etc. are missing out. If there is any chance you can talk to your former Mother-in-law, try that too. Is he worried about naps, sleeping arrangements, or the car ride? Find out what the problem is and then offer solutions. Can you refuse to allow him to take the 6 year old? Technically no you can't. He's entitled to the time. You can't force him to take the other child, but if you ended up back in court should you refuse to send the 6 year old he's going to look like a bad guy, but you risk being accused of custodial interference. Your best bet is to try to work this out somehow.

Will I have to quit breastfeeding due to summer visitation?

Missy's Question: My ex and I live in 2 different states. Our daughter is currently 5 months old and breastfeeding on demand. I work at home so we are never apart. Her father has never met her and has no experience with children. However, he wants to have her for summers starting when she is two. I have requested that he allow her to breastfeed as long as she desires (new recommendations say ideally at least until 2.5 years) and that they need to build their relationship gradually. He is accusing me of being unreasonable. Would a court decide she should go see a man she doesn't know so young and quit breastfeeding to do it?

Brette's Answer: Courts are protective of breastfeeding, but probably not to 2.5 years. Gradually building a relationship makes sense. Sending her to him for an entire summer when she is two is not typical, but I don't know what courts have ruled in your jurisdiction.

How do I handle summer visitation if he doesn't know his Dad?

Katy's Question: My son is almost 7 and his father hasn't seen him since he was a month old. Now his father has an interest in him. I want my son to see his father and father's side of the family, but they think they can have him for a whole two months over the summer. My son doesn't know these people. I will agree to a week to start off and maybe make it two weeks if it goes well. My child has NEVER been away from me for than 24hrs - what do I do?

Brette's Answer: You're approaching this the right way. Your child needs time to get to know these people and form a relationship. I would even think a week at first would be too long. I think he ought to meet them with you along - at a neutral place like a park or restaurant. Then spend a few hours with his father. Then escalate to a day, then eventually an overnight, then a weekend, then a week. It's going to take time and you don't want to rush your child into this. Their expectations are ridiculous and your gradual approach is the right one.

Is he required to keep me updated on our child during summer visitation?

Samantha's Question: My child's father lives 900 miles away and his parenting time is a week after school ends until a week before school begins. My daughter is 4 years old and we met at a police station (prior history of DV) for the exchange. He has not given me a progress report on where he is and will not allow me to talk to my daughter. Should I reach out to the police and have them contact him. Or should I just call my attorney and see what my options are.

Brette's Answer: You should call your attorney. Unless he is required to maintain contact with you, he has not violated your order.  However, some contact with your child would be reasonable throughout the summer.

Do I have to make my special needs son go for summer visitation?

Beverly's Question: I have sole physical custody of our 8 year old special needs son. His father has not been in his life much and sees our son maybe once a year. The visitation schedule is set up for his father to see him for 6 weeks out of the summer, but my son has stated adamantly he does not want to go. He doesn't know his father, he's never been away from me, and with his disabilities (autism, ADHD, OCD, insomnia, and severe anxiety) I'm not inclined to make him go due to the fact that his emotional/mental well-being is foremost in my mind. What options do I have here?

Brette's Answer: Your son is not old enough to decide for himself. You could go back to court and seek a modification. His wishes would be considered but would in no way be determinative at that age. The fact that the father doesn't have a relationship with him is important but the court is generally always looking to support and encourage parent-child relationships. You could perhaps get a therapist involved who might decide it would be detrimental for your child to go and who could testify. There are two paths forward - refuse to send him and wait for your ex to take you to court for enforcement and violation. Or file yourself for a modification. You should talk with an attorney in your state who can go over the options and advise about your best course of action.

How do we handle summer visitation of our autistic son?

Callie's Question: My ex lives in another state and gets 4 week summer visits and 2 weeks every other Christmas. But he doesn't call our son in between visits as required in the divorce decree. My ex's mother didn't give my son his anti-anxiety meds when he was visiting them this last summer and didn't discuss it with me. Our son has autism and is 8 years old and I don't feel that that is a very positive environment for him. If he's not abiding by the parenting plan, do I have the right to not allow my son to go see his dad? I don't keep him from our son but after this summer visit with no contact in between, why should I just hand him over?

Brette's Answer: I agree it is not healthy for your son to have a 4 week visit each summer with nothing in between, particularly if he has autism. Your order specifies phone calls and he doesn't make them? I don't think the answer is to stop visitation though. There needs to be a way to maintain contact in between. You could go back to court and threaten to stop visitation, but instead have the intent to have the judge tell him he's got to make the phone calls. And there needs to be an order directing him to keep your son on his meds as well.

© |  Updated March 16, 2023
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