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How Co-Parents Can Swing Summer Camp

A parent and child at summer camp

For co-parents, the back-and-forth bickering over children’s expenses can seem like a nightmare, but the additional expense of camp and other summer programs or activities carries an additional layer of stress that can lead to a breakdown in communication.

Here’s a piece of advice: When sharing custody, don’t quibble about summer expenses under $50 because these expenditures appear regularly and usually balance out between both parents. Whichever parent finds a hole in their child’s sneakers or decides their son or daughter is in dire need of a haircut should just go to Target or Supercuts and get the job done.

Camp costs and tuition for other programs, however, require deeper pockets. Were these additional expenses addressed in your parenting agreement or divorce judgment? Were all costs to be shared between the parties? Did it further articulate that those costs should be shared in proportion to each parent’s income? Were all expenses to be approved in advance by the other parent, with none to be unreasonably denied?

Going back to court each year to enforce an agreement — or to ask for a modification to address these issues — will cost you more than a camp, and you may not be able to convince a judge that summer camp is even necessary. Therefore, if you want your child to attend camp or participate in other summer programs, you have two choices: pay for them yourself or secure your co-parent’s cooperation in sharing the costs.

Some parents may not see the need for a child to go to camp; they may feel that a little deprivation never hurt anybody, or that children must learn they can’t participate in everything all the time. One co-parent may feel there’s nothing wrong with spending the summer hanging out at the park or at the town pool with cousins and grandparents, while the other parent thinks that every day should be scheduled and/or doesn’t want their child to miss out on an opportunity. However, both parents should consider what’s best for their child in making these decisions and figure out a way to make it work.

Start making summer plans now

Moms and dads who have experience in setting up summer plans know you have to start early to secure spots in popular programs. Add in the element of divorce, and co-parents should plan on spending at least a month to get the cooperation of an ex who isn’t the easiest person to get along with.

Best advice: Do your research early and then draft a proposal for your co-parent that contains all the details of the camp or program. Try to include two or three options so you’re not viewed as trying to shove your opinion down your former spouse’s throat. Present these in such a way that you are asking — not telling — the other parent to be involved, and be sure to highlight how these plans are in the best interest of your child.

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