Summer is fast approaching. Now is the time to begin to work on your summer access schedule. 

Some separated families have the summer schedule set for every summer. Mom will have certain weeks every year and Dad will have other weeks. There is very little negotiation or planing involved. This is a nice arrangement, if you can manage it. The disadvantage is that life is not static. Sometimes the opportunity to negotiate the children’s schedule gives you a chance to accommodate the varying schedules and attend special events that arise each summer. 

For most families, there is a lot of negotiation and compromise involved in scheduling the summer schedule.

Here is how to do it. 

Find a clean calendar you can work with to develop a plan. 

First, write down any dates on the calendar  that are carved in stone. For example, if your holidays are determined by your employer and you can’t change them, write those dates on the calendar. If your children have any activities that cannot be changed, write those down too. 

Next, write down the preferred dates or activities you would like to have but can live without. Use a different color so it is clear that these are not "carved in stone" dates. 

Then do the same for your ex spouse. If you know of any "carved in stone" dates for your ex, write them on the calendar. If you are aware of any preferred dates for your ex, write those down too. 

Now you just have to start carving up the time. Remember, you are trying to reach an agreement so you have to try to come up with something you think your ex spouse can live with too. You both can’t get every favored date. So make some compromises. Share the favored dates. 

Get your ideas for the summer schedule over to your ex spouse as soon as you can. 

I always suggest that you send to your ex spouse a couple of options so they have something to consider. If you send just one choice, it may feel like you are trying to impose your wishes on your ex spouse. Put a short explanation for the dates you have chosen and the compromises you willing to make. You don’t need a long narrative. Short, factual and clear is best. 

Google calendar is a free internet service and is an excellent way of sharing a calendar with your ex spouse. You could create one that is only accessible to you and your ex. You could put your suggested schedule for the children over the summer on it and then seek input from your ex. In fact, the Google Calendar is a great way of keeping track of busy kids all year long. You can get alerts when changes are made to it. 

When you get  a proposal for the summer schedule, respond in a timely way. Waiting to hear just causes unnecessary stress for everyone. I know trying to figure out the summer schedule is frustrating but just do it anyway. 

Once you have it nailed down, stick to it. Don’t be changing it except in the event of some urgent arising. The idea of setting these dates in advance is to allow both parents to plan in advance. Last minute changes makes planning impossible. 

If you can’t resolve it, don’t just run off to court immediately. Court is too expensive, slow and you lose control over the outcome. Court will take the fun out of summer. I suggest you work with a mediator or a Family Coach to find a compromise that works for the whole family. 

One last thing… enjoy the summer time. This is when you have a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids. But don’t forget the suntan lotion!