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Summer's Key Role in Child Custody and Visitation

In Georgia, divorcing couples are required by law to establish a parenting plan that addresses their arrangements regarding child custody and other important matters involving their child. A parenting plan includes information stressing how the mother and father will share time with their child, how they will divide parental responsibilities, and how visitation and other matters will be scheduled in the child's best interests.

The summer season looms large in many parenting plans, and for good reason. Many families are geographically split following a divorce, with a child becoming far removed from a non-custodial parent. One of the parents might remarry with a spouse who already has children, resulting in a child from a divorced family being integrated into a new family apart from his or her  non-custodial parent or seeing that parent blend with a new family.

The remedy for that dislocation is increasingly summer visitation, which is often the only time of the year when a child can meaningfully connect with a non-custodial parent and, often, a newly blended family. Family law experts say that making visitation work well during the summer takes thoughtful planning and a true focus on what is best for the child.

That doesn't mean the kid should control the experience. Anda Harris-Martin, a child therapist in Marietta, states her feeling that, "while children should always get their say, they don't necessarily always get their way."

The same needs to hold true for parents, who, by curbing their urge to remain in constant touch with their child while the child is spending time with the other parent, can optimally promote both the child's interest and their own. Joy Rollins, a divorced mother in Cobb County, says that she has much needed time to spend on personal pursuits during her daughter's summer visit with her father in Texas.

Flexibility is key, says Harris-Martin. The payback is considerable for both the parents and the child.

Related Resource: Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Summer fun helps kids, divorced parents strengthen bond" July 22, 2010

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