Going back to school can be an exciting and overwhelming experience for children and parents alike. For divorced or separated parents, this time can be fraught with challenges which cause stress and conflict for all involved, most importantly children. We advise our family law clients that it is important to make a conscientious effort to put their differences aside and co-parent in the best interest of their children. Successful co-parenting, including communication between parents, is critical in helping children succeed in school, and contributes to their overall sense of well-being and security – a win-win for everyone.
Parents who exercise shared legal custody of their children must agree on school selection and extra-curricular activities prior to enrollment. Before the first day of school, parents should develop and implement a unified parenting plan to provide their children with stability, consistency, and routine. The unified parenting plan should include the following:
- Create and synchronize a parenting calendar, such as Google Calendar, to share important information, including the custodial schedule, the school schedule, and the extra-curricular activity schedule.
- Complete and/or update the school enrollment paperwork, the school emergency contact list, and the school portal registration, and include both parents’ names and contact information. This will ensure that both parents receive school notifications and school records, including report cards with grades.
- Share the responsibility and the cost of all back-to-school related expenses, including clothing and supplies.
- Attend all school related activities, including back-to-school nights and parent-teacher conferences.
- Meet with the teachers, the principal, the guidance counselor, and the coaches and inform them of the current custody order and schedule.
Working together to co-parent and demonstrate a united front will require patience, tolerance, compromise, and coordination, but, in the long run, the joint effort will greatly reduce back to school custody issues which can be costly, frustrating, and painful for children and parents.