Guest Post by Attorney Lindsey Egan
Lindsey Egan is a respected family law attorney with a boutique, client-centered office, Egan Law Center, located in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.
As spring morphs into summer, how do we adjust?
“Summertime….and the livin’ is easy….well, actually, it’s complicated…”
Summer is right around the corner. Bring on the graduations and parties, BBQs, poolside lounging, beach-castle-making contents, and dining alfresco. But also, bring on the tricky family dynamics that you may be navigating post-divorce or separation. Whether separating from a co-parent is recent or many years ago, I wanted to provide some tips to help ease the transition into a time of year that offers opportunity blended with potential disaster.
Let’s talk about events where you’re going to be needing to see or consult with an ex.
Graduations (pre-school through college, or basically any celebratory event culminating in a ceremony).
My first bit of advice is to do what feels right to you bearing in mind what will make the child most comfortable. If you haven’t seen your ex in years and you have an acrimonious relationship, it might not be best to blindside them by pulling up a chair right alongside them. But maybe you don’t want to intentionally go out of your way to avoid them either. Perhaps ripping the Band-Aid off and going over to them before the event starts and offering a friendly “hello” before sitting an appropriate distance away feels best to you. Your child may be anxious just knowing that their parents will both be attending an important event. This is not the time for heated conversations or doing anything other than celebrating your child’s accomplishments and demonstrating that two people can support their success without conflict or chaos.
First, if you have a Separation Agreement (“SA”) currently in place, please follow it! Your SA may cover when you and your ex are entitled to vacation time with your child and directs how you get to select extended periods of time. For example, I’ve seen SAs that state that Parent A gets priority for one week of continuous parenting time each July and Parent B can choose their week in August first, then it alternates each year. Of course, most everything can likely be mutually modifiable outside of your SA. It’s super helpful if you’re able to plan vacations and extended parenting time with plenty of advance notice allowing the other parent to have an opportunity to see if they can accommodate you. This also tempers the anxiety for you and your child when last-minute planning requires final consent from the other parent. Do things early as much as possible to allow everyone time to try to make it work.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, support and encourage summer vacation (or anytime, really) with the other parent. Your child does not want to feel guilty when spending time away from you and it’s important that they have a healthy relationship with each parent. You are allowed to feel conflicted and sad when your child is not with you but try not to allow those feelings to creep into your child’s life. Send them on their way with a hug and a “have the best time” good-bye and then honor your alone time in a way that is most beneficial to you.