A new school year brings a new schedule and new challenges to navigate for all parents, especially divorced parents who share custody of a child. Proactively address potential issues before they become problems to help smooth the transition of back-to-school.
Re-Read Your Divorce Papers
Most divorce decrees and settlement agreements include details about custody and responsibility for child care and other expenses, usually written into a parenting plan. Re-read through your papers, and find any instructions about how to modify the visitation schedule if necessary. Also check for any provisions mandating mediation before returning to the court to resolve post-divorce issues.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Discuss the school schedule and any extracurricular activities, and discuss how to arrange for your child’s transportation and participation while still allowing the other parent her time with the child. Make a plan for how you’ll handle unexpected school closings or emergencies or having to pick up your sick child from school. Decide if one of you can stay home with your child or if they’ll need child care, and be clear about expectations for paying the costs.
Even the best plans sometimes go awry. Be sure to communicate with your co-parent throughout the school year, and agree to a way to communicate by texting, phone calls, etc.
Write It Down
Once you and your co-parent have made some decisions about child care and custody, document any agreements reached. If appropriate, modify your parenting plan. If only a simple change is to be made and both parents agree, you can file a stipulation of the agreement and request the court’s approval. If a new parenting plan is not filed or approved, then the existing plan will remain in effect.
Stick to a Routine
For the benefit of all involved, both parents and your child need to develop a steady routine. As much as possible, keep the same habits and rituals at both parents’ houses. For example, dinner and bedtime should be the same, as should insistence on completing homework.
If the other parent is not following the custody arrangement, you need advice about changing the terms of a divorce agreement or you would like to discuss other child custody or child support concerns, then contact the Office of Laura Spencer Coleman, family law expert.