Do your homework and you won’t get a failing grade as a divorced parent.
SAN DIEGO – August 15, 2016 – Fifty million American kids in elementary and secondary schools will be heading back to the classroom in the next few weeks. We can hear the sigh of relief from parents across the country.
Even if your kids are used to the back to school routine of shopping for new supplies and finding out who their teachers are, they can be anxious, and their parents might be even more anxious, no matter how old your kids are or how many times you’ve been through it all yourself.
If you are a divorced parent, especially freshly divorced since your child’s first day of school last year, there are new school-related issues for you to deal with. Which parent gets to make education related decisions? ? What activities will the child get to be involved in? Who is paying for what? Who does the school call if there is a problem? How do you monitor schoolwork? Who gets to chaperone what field trip? You might even need to work out what school your child will attend, near Dad’s house or Mom’s house.
If this is all new for you, following our tips will make sure back to school doesn’t end up meaning back to court for you and your former spouse.
Get everyone on the same page about routines. Kids will adjust faster if you, your co-parent and the school are all in agreement about routines, and so will you. Meet before school starts without the kids in a neutral location to discuss the details. Work out potential disagreements now such as emergency plans, meals, transportation, weather, after-school activities and all the other logistics making the school routine happen. Once you agree, created a detailed written plan. Share the plan with your children. Keep the steps simple and be consistent. Sometimes a spreadsheet or a calendar format works best.
Meet the new teacher. Divorced or not, it is always good to meet with your child’s new teacher. Let her or him know your child comes from a divorced home or a shared custody home. Children of divorce and separation often act out at school, have emotional moments, or just a bad day. Your child’s teacher should know what’s going on. But avoid drawing teachers and school personnel into any conflict you’re having with your former spouse. If you and your ex can meet the teacher together and show a united front, you’ll start the year in a strong way.
Share information. Don’t withhold information or create obstacles for the noncustodial parent to get information. Game playing is no way to be a productive parent. Unless you have a protective order, give permission to the children’s teachers, counselors, and medical professionals to share information with both parents.
Arrange for duplicate notifications. Although information should always be shared, it helps to arrange for separate, duplicate notifications about academic progress and school activities so one parent is not responsible for copying and sending information to the other.
Try to share all schoolwork and reports that come home. If children are bringing home papers, keep a folder inside a child’s backpack where he or she can put the work. Each parent can check the folder for new materials. Using this system helps parents avoid putting the child in the middle.
Coordinate events. Agree to be polite at school events if you attend at the same time. You can suck it up for the hour it takes every few months. If you can’t make this happen, attend on different nights or at different times.
Deal with school expenses up front. Custodial parents usually pay for back-to-school wardrobes and school supplies, unless both parents agree to share those expenses. Try to buy everything at once if possible to minimize confusion. Keep copies of the receipts so you have a record of what you’re owed.
Share supply information. You may be the parent in charge of school shopping, but your ex might want to be involved. Make sure you have talked in advance about whether Sam or Susie gets a cellphone or iPod. Purchases like this on a whim rarely end up without an argument and upset parents and kids.
Coordinate calendars. School seems like a never ending series of events: sports and music practices, meets, science fairs, concerts, etc. Coordinate the school schedule with your parenting schedule to avoid conflicts or no-shows. Have calendars in each house, one in your child’s backpack and give one to teachers or coaches to show which parent he or she will be with.
Our advice assumes you and your former spouse are not a danger to the other. If you are not permitted by court order to be in each other’s physical presence, you will need to take precautions. Inform the school in the event law enforcement needs to be called to intervene. Be sure pickup agreements are on the record, clear and enforced.
Written records are your friend and can help avoid misunderstandings becoming legal issues. If necessary, you may need to arrange to have a third party assist and be the point of mutual contact between you to ensure civility and cooperation. Getting help from a counselor or therapist to help create a supportive school environment is worth whatever the cost to help your child.
Do not let school become a battleground to establish who is the better parent. This is not a competition with your former spouse. School should be a safe, positive environment for your child to foster his or her education. This isn’t possible if your child is struggling through your divorce while juggling the demands of a new school year. Let school be a place for him or her to learn and succeed, feel good about themselves, and forget about the issues at home.
No matter what, you can’t go wrong making a decision if you stop and ask yourself this: what’s in the best interest of my child? That gets you an A-plus anytime.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
Copyright © 2016 by Fleischer & Ravreby