The first day of school can be challenging for any parent, but even more so for divorced or separated parents who now have to co-parent. If this is your first time navigating the school year as co-parents, don’t worry – with some planning and communication, you can make it work smoothly for your kids.
If you and your child’s other parent have separated since the last school year, be aware that the school experience will be different for you as a single parent. It’s relatively rare for one parent to be given sole authority to make decisions in the child’s life, so chances are you’ll be working with your ex a lot during the school year.
If this is your first-time co-parenting, rest assured, you can still be an effective parent. This is an opportunity to model good communication and conflict resolution for your children. Co-parenting takes effort, but by working together you can provide a positive school experience for your kids. It won’t always be easy, but you can still parent effectively even after a divorce.
What are some common issues co-parents experience in their first school year apart?
The first thing to do is ensure the school has you on file as your child’s parent. You and your ex should both be on file as people who can pick your child up from school, sign permission slips, and make important decisions. Make sure this is the case right away so you don’t face a dispute at the wrong moment.
As part of your parenting plan, you and your ex should make some school-related decisions. For example, who will pay for school-related expenses like school supplies, back-to-school clothes, athletic equipment and fees, and field trip fees? If the child will attend a private school, who will pay the tuition? If there are disagreements over these expenses, how should they be resolved?
Will you each be responsible for helping with homework when the child has an overnight at your house? Or would one parent prefer to help on certain subjects and the other parent others? What makes the most sense for your family? What will happen when the child has a big project that will take more than a couple of days to complete? Effective communication is going to be key.
You should also think about field trips. In most cases, each parent has full authority to sign permission slips, but that does not mean you should sign them and forget about telling your ex. Both parents have the right to know where their kids will be.
Who will attend parent-teacher conferences? Will it be both of you? You will need to coordinate. Most parents want to be equally involved in their children’s education. That may mean working as a team at parent-teacher conferences, when there are disciplinary issues, or when your child’s school performance needs improvement.
Whether you’re recently divorced or are considering divorce, covering basic issues like these in your parenting plan can help prevent disputes. When one does arise, a good parenting agreement may include a mechanism for dispute resolution.
Co-parenting after divorce takes work, but you can make it successful for your kids with the right plan in place. If you need guidance creating a comprehensive parenting plan or modifying an existing one, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation – we will review your situation and provide the advice you need to move forward. Investing in a thoughtful co-parenting plan is one of the best ways to ensure a smooth school year. The time is now to get prepared!