Florida students are heading back to school. You have some new school-related issues to deal with if you are a newly divorced dad. Myra Chack Fleischer reports for the Seaside Courier.
Who pays for what? What activities will the child be involved in? Who keeps an eye on homework assignments? Who does the school call if there is an emergency?
You and your former spouse need to talk everything over long before the first school bell rings. Here are some tips that will make sure back to school doesn’t also send you back to court.
Get on the same page about routines. Don’t make school more complicated than necessary. Kids will adjust faster if you’re in agreement about routines, and so will you. Work out any potential disagreements now. Write it all down and share the plan with your children. Keep it simple and be consistent.
Meet the new teacher. Introduce yourself to your child’s new teacher to get off to a good start. Inform him or her about your family circumstances. Children of divorce and separation sometimes act out at school, have emotional moments, or just a bad day. It will help if your child’s teacher knows the situation.
Share information. Don’t play games, hoard information, or create obstacles for the noncustodial parent to get information. Unless you have a protective order, give permission to the children’s teachers, counselors, and medical professionals to share information with both parents.
Arrange for duplicate notifications. It helps to arrange for separate, duplicate notifications about academic progress and school activities so one parent is not responsible for copying and sending information to the other. Here is a helpful method of sharing schoolwork and notices: keep a folder inside a child’s backpack. Have the child put everything in the folder, and each parent can check it for new materials. Using this system helps parents to avoid putting the child in the middle, and also makes it less complicated for your kids.
Coordinate events. Agree in advance to be civil at school events for your kids’ sake if you both attend. You can suck it up for an hour or two. If this is really, truly not possible, coordinate attendance so you don’t cross paths. Most teachers are willing to meet both parents separately one on one when necessary.
Deal with school expenses up front. Custodial parents usual pay for back-to-school clothes and school supplies, unless both parents agree to share those expenses. Try to buy everything at one store if possible to minimize confusion. Keep copies of the receipts so you have a record of what you’re owed.
Share supply information. You may be the parent in charge of school shopping, but your ex might want to be involved. Make sure you have talked in advance about whether your child gets a cell phone or iPod. Purchases like this on a whim rarely end up without an argument.
Keep and coordinate calendars. Coordinate the school calendar with your parenting schedule. You want to make sure your child is able to attend important events. Have calendars in each house, one in your child’s backpack and give one to teachers or coaches to show which parent your child will be with.
All of this advice assumes you and your former spouse are not a danger to the other. Inform the school in the event law enforcement needs to be called to intervene. Be sure pickup agreements are on the record, clear and enforced.
Communication is still important and a written record can help keep legal issues straight and problems at bay. If necessary, you may need to arrange to have a third party assist and be the point of mutual contact between you to ensure civility and cooperation.
School should not be a battleground to establish who is the better parent. Don’t get into competition with your former spouse. Your child is struggling through your divorce while juggling the demands of the new school year. Let school be a place for him or her to learn, achieve, excel, have fun, and forget about the issues at home.
Anytime you feel stressed, stop and ask yourself: what’s in the best interest of my child? This gets you a guaranteed A-plus.
If you have questions regarding Florida child custody, or if you need to speak with an Orlando divorce lawyer, please contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm today. Our legal team aggressively advocates father’s rights.