Schools Out for Summer—Considerations for Your Custody and Visitation Case

Most people probably look back on their childhood and fondly recall the excitement and anticipation of summer’s arrival. With summer comes no school, fun vacations, and summer camps. However, for working parents especially, summer can sometimes bring a wave of anxiety and stress. There is the looming question of “Who will watch the kids while I am at work?” “If I send them to summer camp, how much is that going to cost?” For parents who find themselves in the midst of a custody case, the stress can increase even more since parents might not always be on the same page when it comes to matters involving their children. Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP, our team of experienced family law attorneys often see a wave of case activity that upticks with the impending arrival of summer due to these very questions. Below are some questions we often see asked leading up to summer, and some answers that help shed light on those issues.

I Do Not Have Any Custody and Visitation Orders. My Kids Are Out of School and My Ex and I Cannot Agree on Childcare for the Summer. Can I Just Enroll Them in a Summer Camp of My Choosing?

Under this hypothetical, this parent could technically make childcare arrangements of their choosing, without input from the other parent, since the parties do not have any Court orders. However, that is not to say that this would be the best course of action. In fact, in most cases, we would probably say that taking this sort of unilateral action would be inadvisable. This is because California is a “50/50” state where the Court expects parents to work together and co-parent in the best interest of the minor child. Of course, every case is different and as such, it is not always going to be the case that parents will be ordered to share joint custody. However, absent evidence that sharing joint custody is not in the minor child’s best interest, the Court will expect the parents to work together when it comes to making decisions on behalf of their minor child.

Therefore, if this parent were to unilaterally enroll their children in a summer camp without first speaking with the other parent, should this come to light in the context of a custody case, it would likely frustrate the Judge. This is because it would potentially give the Judge a sense that this parent is unwilling to co-parent and allow the other parent to be involved in decisions that impact their shared children. It is always important that parents demonstrate through their actions that they are willing to share time with the minor child, as well as share information and decision-making authority with the other parent. Failure to do so can have negative implications in your case.

If you and your ex cannot agree on an arrangement, your best course of action is going to be to file a motion (also known as a “Request for Order”) on this issue. The Court will set a hearing date and ultimately have the ability to make a decision on that disputed issue. Bear in mind, the Court’s calendar gets filled quite quickly, especially during the summer. Therefore, it is important your speak with an experienced San Jose family law attorney well in advance of summer if you and the other parent are unable to resolve this issue yourself.

My Ex-Husband and I Both Work. He Has His Parents Watch the Kids While He Works, But I Don&Rsquo;T Have Anyone to Watch Them While I Work. I Need to Put Them in Daycare so I Can Work. Does My Ex-Husband Have to Help Pay for This?

Under California law, yes, parents are required to share the cost of any childcare incurred necessary for either parent to work. Such childcare is a form of mandatory child support. This is found in Family Code §4062(a), which states: “The court shall order the following as additional child support:(1) Child care costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills.” In the realm of Family Law, you will often hear the expense of childcare referred to as a “mandatory child support add-on.” Some people might think of childcare strictly in the sense of a nanny or extended after-school care. However, that is not the case. When kids are out of school for summer, childcare can take many forms—sports camp, music camp, dance camp, summer school, swim lessons, etc. So long as the cost is related to the children attending these activities during a parent’s work-hours, then those costs will be considered a mandatory child support add-on, which should be shared by the other parent.

If you do not have child support orders, and you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on splitting this cost, it is important you file a motion as soon as possible in order to preserve the Court’s ability to make these support orders retroactive. Though the Court can make the support orders apply retroactive to the date the Petition was filed, that is not a guarantee. Our attorneys at Mello & Pickering, LLP can help explain the complexities surrounding the retroactivity of child support orders.

There are many considerations to factor in when making arrangements for the care of your children, especially while going through a contested custody case. Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP have over 40 years combined Family Law experience and can help guide you through your custody case. Call our office at (408) 288-7800 for an initial consultation.

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