If you are a parent of school aged children, you probably have a mile-long checklist of things you need to do, and supplies you need to purchase before the first day of school arrives. While the prospect of starting a new school year and getting back to a more predictable schedule can be a welcome change from the lazy days of summer, it can also be a hectic time, particularly if you are divorced and you and your ex-spouse share custody of your children. You can avoid unnecessary stress and conflict with your ex if you focus on your children’s best interests and follow some effective co-parenting tips for the back-to-school season. If you are experiencing custody issues, do not hesitate to contact an experienced child custody lawyer.
How Can I Effectively Co-Parent During Back-to-School?
If you and your ex had an amicable divorce, and you have been able to maintain a productive and friendly relationship, navigating the return to school as co-parents might be a piece of cake. If your divorce was more contentious, you may want to avoid interacting with your ex as much as possible. However, when children are involved, it is important that you make a concerted effort to set your differences aside and help make the transition from summer to a new school year as smooth as possible for your children. The following are examples of effective co-parenting tips for this busy time of year:
- Keep the lines of communication open. There are a lot of issues that you and your ex will need to discuss before school starts. While communication issues may have been part of the reason why your marriage did not work, it is important that you find a way to discuss important issues in a civil and respectful manner. If interacting with each other in person is too difficult, you can address the majority of your parental issues via text or email.
- Share all school information. Both parents have the legal right to receive information about their children’s education, even if the couple is divorced. Even if the school provides information to both parents, you are strongly encouraged to share school-related information with your ex. Fortunately, technology makes this very easy to do without having to speak to each other directly. Document sharing programs allow you to update calendars, make changes and add notes, and access pictures and report cards from the school. This means that you can keep your communication to a minimum while ensuring that you both have all of the important information about your children’s assignments, grades, teachers and school-related events.
- Inform the school about your custody arrangement. Make sure that the school has a copy of your child custody and parenting time order, particularly if circumstances have changed since the previous school year, or if any of your children have changed schools. This will ensure that the school knows who to call in the event of an emergency, and who they should release your child to if they are getting picked up from school.
- Maintain a consistent parenting schedule. While it is completely acceptable to have a certain degree of flexibility when dealing with custody issues, consistency and predictability is also important. This is particularly true if your children are involved in sports or other after school activities where they will need to be dropped off and picked up on time. When children have a predictable routine, and they know who is responsible for them on any given day, it provides a sense of comfort and security.
- Share the back-to-school shopping responsibilities. There are a lot of school supplies that kids need before school starts, from school supplies and clothing to sports equipment and musical instruments. The cost of these items can add up very quickly, so make sure that you discuss these expenses with your ex, and determine who is going to pay for which items.
- Remain civil when attending school functions. There are going to be concerts, awards ceremonies, sporting events and other school functions that you and your ex will both want to attend. Even if you are not on friendly terms with your ex, make an effort to be civil towards each other when attending these events. This will show your children that they are your top priority, and that you are willing to set aside your differences in order to support them.
- Make sure that you are on the same page regarding vaccinations. The COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for all children over the age of five. It is important that you and your ex are in agreement on whether your children should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as other recommended vaccinations, including the HPV vaccine for teens. If you cannot reach an agreement, you may need to get court approval, which can be a time-consuming process. You may want to consider scheduling an appointment with your child’s pediatrician where you and your ex can both talk to the doctor about the pros and cons of a particular vaccine.
- Discuss who will quarantine with your child if he or she gets COVID. COVID cases continue to fluctuate, and even people who have been vaccinated can still get the virus. According to the CDC, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home for at least five days and isolate themselves from other people. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, you or your ex will need to stay home with your child for those five days. If you discuss this ahead of time, and have a plan in place, you can ensure that your child is cared for, and gets the help he or she needs with school assignments and homework.
How Can I Avoid Custody-Related Conflicts As My Children Return to School?
Back to school is a busy time of year, but it does not have to be filled with stress and conflict, even for divorced parents. The key to having a smooth transition to a new school year is to have a child custody plan in place that incorporates important back-to-school issues. This can include everything from who is responsible for purchasing school supplies and clothing to determining which parent will attend school functions like parent-teacher conferences, sporting events, or musical performances. You can also specify which parent will be responsible for signing school papers. This can help avoid a great deal of stress and confusion that children often feel if they forget which parent is responsible for taking care of important school documents.
Unfortunately, there are situations where conflicts related to child custody may arise, which can make the situation more difficult than it needs to be. The following are examples of common child custody issues that may come up as a new school year approaches:
- Your ex-spouse leaves town with your child. Custody agreements clearly specify when the child is with each parent. You ex cannot suddenly leave town with your child without an official agreement in place. A child custody lawyer will work closely with you to determine whether your ex violated the custody agreement, and ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.
- Your ex tries to disrupt the established pattern of visitation. This can be extremely difficult if you and your ex have a tumultuous relationship. In addition, the disruption to the schedule can be extremely upsetting for the children. A child custody lawyer can work with you to resolve the conflict and reach the best possible solution.
- Your ex does not abide by the holiday arrangements. Holidays can be stressful enough without having to deal with an ex-spouse who makes last-minute changes to parenting arrangements, or demands to have the children for a holiday that they are scheduled to be with you. You can avoid some of this stress by making sure that your custody agreement addresses holidays, birthdays and other special occasions, and who will have custody of the children on each of those days. You can certainly allow for some flexibility, but having an agreed upon schedule in writing will help prevent arguments, and unpleasant interactions that can be very upsetting to the children.
- Your ex fails to pay child support. If your ex violates his or her responsibility to pay child support, you are urged to contact a child support lawyer as soon as possible. Child support agreements are legally binding, which means he or she cannot stop making payments, or pay less than what was agreed upon without facing legal ramifications. In addition, if your spouse got a promotion or a raise, your support amount should be modified to reflect the increase in salary. A dedicated child support lawyer will take the necessary steps to ensure that your ex abides by the child support agreement.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Parents with Custody Issues
Co-parenting can be challenging when you are preparing for the hustle and bustle of a new school year. If you are facing custody challenges from your ex-spouse, the Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates will help you successfully resolve these issues and ensure that your children’s best interests are protected. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.