Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP

Back-to-School is looking very different this year as families across the United States enter into the sixth month of the COVID-19 pandemic and what many are calling the “new normal.” As schools begin to welcome their students back for learning and extracurricular activities, whether it is in-person, remote, or some hybrid model, parents are reevaluating various decisions regarding their child’s school year. For parents who co-parent under a shared legal custody order, this means coming to an agreement regarding what their child’s participation in school and extracurricular activities will look like for the upcoming school year and what accommodations must be made for the child’s remote learning and socialization moving forward. When coming to an understanding regarding your child’s education in the new age, parents should aim to do the following:

Communicate and Consult

In the age of COVID-19, families are often faced with crucial decisions that must be made fast. When faced with such decisions, parents with shared legal custody orders must ensure that they are keeping their co-parent involved in this decision-making. Parents should consult with each other in advance regarding all major decisions affecting the best interest of their child, including educational, religious, medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric, and religious decisions. If there is a question as to the child’s attendance at school, visits to a doctor’s office, or even attendance at a religious ceremony, the other parent should be notified and consulted. The exception lies in case of an emergency. If there is an emergency, the parent that has physical custody of the child at the time of the emergency is permitted to make immediate decisions necessitated by the emergency and should communicate and consult with the other parent as soon as possible.

Adjust and Accommodate

Families across the globe have been forced to adjust and alter their lives and schedules due to the pandemic. As families embark on this new school year, more adjustments will need to be made. When evaluating what the school year will look like for your child, discuss with your co-parent what adjustments and accommodations will need to be made to ensure your that child can navigate the school year despite the challenges presented. Each parent may need to adjust their scheduling to stay home with the child while they are learning remotely. Additionally, each parent should ensure that they have a space at their respective homes to promote an effective and positive learning environment for their child. Parents should ensure that the child has a computer, desk or table, and adequate school supplies that they can use at each parents’ respective homes.

While this is a time filled with many uncertainties for all, one certainty remains that the best interest of the child should always prevail in custody matters. Parents who are co-parenting school-aged children should not hesitate to seek legal counsel to represent them to resolve and negotiate any issues that may arise when making any of the above decisions during this unprecedented time.

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