For most of us, summertime brings to mind relaxing and recreational activities with friends and families. For divorced parents, though, afternoons at the beach, backyard barbecues, Fourth of July fireworks and family vacations can feel more like sources of stress than opportunities for fun.

To be sure, sharing custody is a year-round balancing act, and there are bound to be some tumbles and bruises along the way. But with school out of session and active kids to keep busy, summertime can present its own unique set of challenges.

With some advanced calendar work, a lot of communication and a little bit of compromise, you and your ex-spouse can keep cool during the summer months while helping your children make fond and lasting memories.

Plan Ahead

It’s a cliché for a reason – life doesn’t always go according to plan. But that doesn’t make the plan irrelevant.

While unexpected issues or changes in schedule can certainly arise, creating a carefully crafted summer custody plan with your ex-spouse can help you navigate any contingencies.

It also makes it easier to make vacation arrangements. Want to take a road trip to the North Carolina mountains? Just don’t wait until the day before you hit the highway to let your ex-spouse know about it… and don’t rely on your children to deliver the message.

Months before temperatures rise, sit down together and work out a schedule that works for both of you and – most importantly – the kids.

Put Your Children First

This is common sense, of course, but it bears repeating – and remembering – in the midst of often emotionally charged post-divorce decisions.

Don’t get so lost in planning with your ex-spouse that you leave your kids feeling voiceless and helpless. If they are old enough, ask them for their input. Adolescents and teens, especially, are going to want to spend time with their peer groups more than their parents, and a summer plan should take their social life into account, too.

Cooperate, don’t compete

Finding out that your ex-husband just installed a swimming pool in the backyard or that your ex-wife is taking the kids to Disney World can be disconcerting if you’re on the outside looking in… particularly if your children seem more excited by such developments than by spending time with you.

Every divorced parent feels a little insecure at times and we all at least secretly want to be the favorite! But don’t let those emotions tear away at what can be a very cooperative and positive arrangement for all involved.

Remember that your kids’ happiness comes first and that, in the end, that’s what matters most. And children will certainly be happier if, while they’re having some summer fun, they see their parents working together instead of sweating the small stuff.

If you need help navigating divorce and custody, contact the experienced team at The Lea Schultz Law Firm, (910) 239-5990, to request an initial consultation, or visit

Jim Lea has been practicing law for nearly four decades. In 1996, he received an “A preeminent” rating from Martindale Hubbell, an honor earned by only 10 percent of the country’s lawyers. Since then, he has been named a “Super Lawyer,” honored as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” and “preeminent lawyer,” all for over 10 years. He was recently inducted into “Lawyers of Distinction,” limited to the nation’s top 10 percent of lawyers. His firm has been named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top law firms for more than five years.