If you are a divorced or separated parent, it is never too early to think about the upcoming school year. Children, like adults, often have highly scheduled lives. This can create great conflict and confusion for divorced and separated parents and their children. The best solution to this challenge is co-parenting. However, the reality is, co-parenting does not always happen easily and sometimes it is made impossible by one or both of the parents.
Review the School Year Calendar
The best advice to ensure your children’s smooth transition to their new school year is to review the existing custody arrangement and determine if there are any conflicts for either parent with the children’s upcoming schedules. Besides the school schedule, the other large source of conflict is extracurricular activities.
The school schedule is usually pre-determined and set by the school. While the school schedule may create challenges and conflicts for one or both parents (for example, involving drop-off and pick-up times), these typically are less a source of conflict between the parents than are the children’s extracurricular activities.
Resolve the Extracurricular Activities Conflict
Parents should meet and confer on the extracurricular activities the children participate in so they can cooperate to ensure the children’s participation during after school hours and weekends. If parents agree for the children to participate in a particular activity, it is expected that each parent will ensure the child’s participation during the respective parent’s custodial time. If a parent unilaterally chooses to enroll a child in any activity, it is critical that the activity not conflict with the other parent’s custodial time. If such unilateral enrollment occurs, the enrolling parent should be aware that they may be solely responsible for the cost of the activity, unless a court order provides otherwise. The enrolling parent should also understand that the other parent will not be required to ensure the child’s participation unless a court order is obtained requiring such cooperation. Of course, this is unfair to the child but the parent who is responsible for placing the child in the middle of this conflict is the parent who unilaterally enrolled the child. Court intervention is a feasible solution if the parents cannot otherwise agree.
If it is clear the scheduling conflict cannot be resolved amicably, then it is important that one or both parents seek legal advice as soon as possible. The litigation process, which could involve a child custody evaluation performed by a mental health professional, could take months to resolve. Therefore, it is critical to determine early whether or not conflicts exist between the parents so, if necessary, court intervention can be sought and resolution reached. It is this resolution which will provide a smooth and easy transition for your children into their new school year.