It’s That Time Again

The middle of Summer is upon us and the thoughts of many parents now turn to the beginning of the school year. Local stores are displaying school supplies and uniforms signaling the return to school is sooner rather than later. Summer is often, hopefully, a stress-free and flexible time of the year for parents who are co-parenting children following a separation and divorce. The start of the school year can bring up problems that require attention and planning, especially if parents want to successfully navigate the upcoming school year together. Even for parents that work well together, back to school usually brings its own set of unique struggles to address. Whether you are working on putting an agreement in writing, or looking to your Separation Agreement or Order for answers, here are some common topics that you should think about as you prepare for the school year.

 

EXPENSES

Who will pay for things like school supplies, lunches, tutoring, and activity fees? Sometimes children have specific needs which may require consideration beyond just the basic guideline child support, and that might not ordinarily be required under basic child support. When each parent spends equal time with the children, it might be expected that both parties share in expenses. Without a clear understanding, one parent may be left paying for all of the expenses for the children’s back to school needs.

 

TRANSPORTATION AND EXCHANGE TIMES

One issue that seems like it should have an easy answer is, “Who picks the children up, and when?” Balancing school, holidays, and after-school activities can make this co-parenting dilemma even more complicated, particularly if both parents are working outside the home.   Will the children be picked up directly from school? What about teacher workdays? Who is taking them to which after-school activity, and picking them up? Each family is unique, and your Agreement or Order should reflect that. While the terms should be clear, and may eliminate some gray areas, a helpful hint can be sharing an electronic calendar, such as Google calendar, with the other parent so you both are clear about where the children are and who has what responsibilities.

 

SHARING OF SCHOOL INFORMATION

It’s a good idea to think about what school-related information is important to you and make sure it is included in your Agreement or Order. How will you know when there is a test or a project due? What about when your child is running a fever? In the absence of rules for the sharing of school information, it’s advisable to make sure both parentare listed as contacts on school emergency forms and to share important information that the other parent might not have received. If a parent begins to feels left out of their children’s education, he or she should try contacting teachers and staff to request they include both parents on communications and other information regarding the children. Parents may even want to bring self-addressed stamped envelopes to the school for any materials that may not be available online.

 

MAKING THE HONOR ROLL OF PARENTING AND COPARENTING

Everyone wants to get an “all As’ on being prepared for the school year. Parents should start thinking about these important obstacles as their children prepare to head back to school so that every child can have the best school year possible. Happy return to school!

Andrea Anders, Practice areas: Personal injury, family law

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