Child Custody & 15 Back-To-School Tips for Divorced Parents
The Purpose of Your Parenting Plan
Studies have proven that most couples decide to file for divorce at the start of a new year. They may have stayed together to give their children one last holiday season as a family unit, but January is called “Divorce Month” for a reason: new year, new me, and new opportunities for personal growth and emotional fulfillment. Granted, divorce can be a confusing and emotional legal process, but the results are usually better than staying in an unhealthy and unhappy marriage, especially when it comes to your kids. Children internalize the arguments, the ongoing dissent, and the distance, and it naturally colors their perceptions of what constitutes a healthy and loving relationship.
One of the most challenging and critical aspects of the divorce process is negotiating a comprehensive parenting plan that establishes each parent’s responsibilities and custody rights. Parents need to consider their child’s emotional, physical, and social needs when developing this important agreement. For example, it should include the child’s daily living schedule while also making plans for future holidays and vacations. This plan is meant to provide the child with a sense of stability, while also ensuring that each parent has time and space to maintain a healthy relationship with their child.
The First School Semester After Divorce
Most “New Year” divorces are finalized by the summer season, which gives parents time to help their children adjust to their new lives and schedules. However, your parenting plan – and patience – may be put to the test when your child goes back to school, especially if you happen to have a contentious relationship with your ex.
As previously stated, you likely have at least two parenting time schedules: one for the school year and one for breaks or vacations. The upcoming semester is when you and your ex will test the school year portion of your parenting plan for the first time. You may be divorced, but you still need to navigate class schedules, parent-teacher conferences, homework responsibilities, and extracurricular activities together. The good news is that this trial can help you determine if serious modifications need to be made to the original parenting plan.
In most cases, former spouses can negotiate minor scheduling conflicts without needing to involve the court or seriously tinkering with their child’s schedule. After all, you don’t want a plan that varies from week to week, as that will only confuse your child and complicate their back-to-school experience. You can, of course, update the plan to account for unforeseen obstacles so long as your custody arrangement remains simple and consistent for your child’s sake.
To help you and your ex prepare for the first semester of school, the family law attorneys at Pearson Butler have compiled the following list of back-to-school tips:
- Reassure your ex by committing to open communication and inclusion in all education-related decisions.
- Agree to review the terms of the parenting plan after every school semester.
- Keep consistent house rules, even if you aren’t the primary custodial parent.
- Talk to your child about their new schedule and, if they moved to a new school following the divorce, make sure they understand that they’ll still be able to see their old friends.
- Download a co-parenting app (like Parentship or SharedCare) to keep track of extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, homework deadlines, vacations, etc.
- Notify your child’s teacher about the divorce and ask for regular updates about their progress and emotional state.
- Ask the school to include both you and your ex on any mailing lists.
- Update school forms to reflect your child’s new and/or primary address; also, make sure the school knows which parties can pick-up your child and who should be called in an emergency situation.
- Split any costs associated with your child’s back-to-school supplies.
- Talk to your ex and make plans to drop your child off together on the first day of school.
- Share your child’s homework schedule with your ex and make sure you’re both on the same page regarding scheduling, deadlines, and obligations.
- If possible, attend parent-teacher conferences with your ex.
- Agree to share pictures if one parent is unable to attend an event.
- Try to include your ex’s family members at recitals, games, and award ceremonies.
- Seek professional help if your child is uncharacteristically sad, withdrawn, and/or angry after several months.
Have Questions About Your Parenting Plan? Call Pearson Butler Today
Contact the child custody lawyers at Pearson Butler if you’re ready to file for divorce or have questions about an existing custody agreement. We can help you develop or renegotiate a comprehensive parenting plan that reflects your child’s best interests. Our experienced legal team can also represent your interests if you’ve been accused or need to enforce a violation.