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5 tips for a successful summer vacation schedule

You and your ex both work, so the school year helps your child custody schedule work flawlessly. You just do the trades at school; when your children are supposed to switch back to your home or to your ex's house, that person simply does pick-up after school. It's a smooth, seamless transition, and the fact that the kids are in school all day means you can both stick to the same work schedule.

If only school went all year around.

Those three months of summer vacation really throw a wrench in your plans. How do you do the exchanges? Who watches the children when they're at home all day and you both still have to go to work? What other issues is the new schedule going to expose in a plan that seemed so bulletproof during the school year?

It can be tough, but here are five tips that can help you get through the summer months successfully:

1. Plan in advance.

This may be the single most important piece of advice you can get. So many conflicts start because of last-minute planning. You want to take the children on a road trip but your ex had no idea and had his or her own plans already in place. If you plan that trip two months in advance, everyone has time to schedule things out and prepare, and the whole conflict gets avoided.

2. Consult your custody agreement.

For instance, some agreements say you cannot leave the state without permission from the other parent. Do not take your children to see the Grand Canyon, thinking only of the memories you will make, and then realize when you arrive that you violated the agreement.

3. Remember that communication is crucial.

Talk clearly about your plans. Don't leave details out. Don't avoid telling your ex something because you don't want to have a conversation. Don't pass messages through your kids. Talk to one another directly and make sure everyone understands the plan.

4. Pick a new location for exchanges.

The school provided an easy go-to place to exchange custody. Pick a specific location for the summer months. Set up days and times to make the exchange, and then always show up on time. Get into a new routine and stick with it until school starts again in September.

5. Understand when compromise is necessary.

The summer months may not go perfectly for either of you. Life gets busy. Schedules fill up. Holidays like the Fourth of July mean you both want to be with the kids. Compromise may prove necessary. Be open to it and talk to your ex to find out exactly what plans works best for the kids. Put them first at all times.

New plans

As you and your ex work out your summer plans, make sure you always keep the custody agreement and your legal rights in mind, while focusing on the children's best interests.

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