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Step-parents and summer: Avoid child custody problems

Many children in Kansas are among others in the nation who no longer live with both parents. Children of divorce face many challenges as they adapt to new lifestyles, especially during summer break. If a non-custodial parent remarries, it adds a whole new dynamic to the situation, one that can lead to serious child custody problems if the adults involved let their emotions or tempers get out of hand.  

There are several things a non-custodial parent can do to avoid problems when children come to visit during the summer. Discussing the issue ahead of time may help prevent disputes down the line. It is critical that step-parents understand that the two key figures in children's lives are their own parents, and decisions regarding custody, visitation and support come through parental negotiation and court approval (or intervention if parents can't resolve their differences). In short, step-parents may not interfere with court orders.  

This means that if the court says the kids are to spend a certain amount of time at their non-custodial parent's home during summer, so be it, whether the step-parent likes it or not. Of course, it always helps if that particular party is agreeable to the plan. It is also easier to keep stress low if the non-custodial parent resists the urge to compete for popularity over the custodial parent.  

A custodial parent in Kansas or elsewhere can help kids by letting them know it is okay to feel affectionate toward their step-parent. This may also set the step-parent at ease, which, in turn, may lower the risk of child custody problems erupting while the kids are staying at the non-custodial parent's home. Conference calls and efforts to keep the other parent informed of travel plans, changes of plans or other schedule details also go a long way toward peaceful co-parenting after divorce, especially in summer.  

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