Divorced Parents: Make a Plan when School Starts
For families of small children, starting school is a whole new world of expectations, challenges and juggling. But for divorced parents, there is an added layer of custody arrangements and parenting plans. Determining which parent will attend games, concerts, and teacher conferences — or planning for what happens when an activity is not on your “day” — are examples of questions that need to be addressed when a child enters school.
We have all seen the less than ideal experience for a child where parents are on opposite sides of a venue — leaving the child awkwardly in the middle wondering who to address, sing to, or pose with when it is time for pictures. These experiences can be prevented if the parents openly discuss these new scenarios as the child becomes school aged.
It is difficult to think of all of the issues school will bring when building a parenting plan for a young child. Some issues to consider:
- Parents need to discuss what activities the child will participate in, as well as which parents will be responsible for getting the child to practices, games and other extracurricular activities.
- Both parents need to discuss how much time the child will spend on activities, school work, and general playtime.
- Sit down with the school calendar and map out who will have the children on holidays, birthdays and school breaks. It is helpful if everything is in writing and in the parenting plan.
- Discuss how will the division of homework occur.
- Be prepared to be without your child on certain holidays and school events and how to handle.
An experienced family law attorney can help you think of the different scenarios that could occur as the child ages.
Most school systems have a detailed plan for custodial versus non-custodial issues. It is important to remember that in shared custody agreements it is NOT the school’s job to know who has custody of your child on what days.
Based on school policy, the parent who is listed as having primary custody may be the one receiving emails from the teacher, sick calls and field trip participation. The secondary parent can usually get on the school’s list. But remember while one parent may be listed as “in charge,” school aged children do better in school when both parents are involved in the schooling.
With all parenting plans, the goal needs to be to have a happy child. Work together to make custodial issues go as smoothly as possible so that the child does benefit from both parents input and care.