With August around the corner, many families are preparing for the new school year. Depending on what county you live in (and whether your child attends a public or private school), your child may be going back to school as early as August 8th. In this article, we will discuss ways that divorced parents can make going back to school less stressful for the whole family.
Please be advised that these are general suggestions. Depending on your child’s age as well as how they are coping with the divorce, you may need to provide them with additional support.
How to Make Going Back to School Less Stressful After Divorce
If you are divorced and separated and have children, the start of the school year may be more stressful than usual as you try to navigate co-parenting and adjust to the new schedule/normal (as outlined in your parenting plan). Here are some tips that may help you smoothly navigate the new school year.
- Review your parenting plan. During your custody case, you should have drafted a parenting plan that included details about how you would split parenting time. As the school year approaches, review your parenting plan, especially specifics concerning school pick-ups and drop-offs, extracurriculars, school breaks, etc.
- Commit to being communicative. To reassure your co-parent, you should recommit to keeping one another up-to-date concerning your child’s education, health, etc. If you have joint legal custody (i..e you share responsibility and both have the right to make decisions about their religious upbringing, cultural and athletic participation, medical care, etc.), you must consult with the other parent regularly. Regardless of joint physical or legal custody, the other party may appreciate receiving occasional updates or a first-day-of-school picture.
- Coordinate back-to-school shopping plans. To avoid getting unnecessary duplicates, you should coordinate what each parent will purchase and plan to split the cost of the needed supplies, new clothes, and other back-to-school expenses.
- Handle the drop-off on the first day together (if possible). If possible, both parents should drop off your child on the first day. Younger children, especially, will appreciate this support. While you don’t have to ride together by any means, consider meeting in the parking lot or walking in a younger student on their first day together.
- Consider using a co-parenting app. Apps like Cozi and Family Wizard can help you maintain communication and a shared calendar that tracks school activities, picture days, homework/project deadlines, and other important dates. Parents can also include receipts for shared expenses. Some apps also allow third parties like counselors or grandparents to contribute, and the apps can be used to keep everyone up-to-date on progress reports and other important information.
- Prioritize consistency. While parallel parenting allows parents more freedom to deviate from parenting in the same way and maintain the same rules and schedule as their co-parent, parents should try to ensure their child has a consistent schedule whether they co-parent or parallel parent.
- Inform your child’s school and teachers. Telling your child’s teacher about the divorce can help them better monitor their progress and behavior in school, and they will know to send two sets of books, school packets, etc. if possible. If your family is blended, you can also avoid confusion or issues if a stepparent does a pick-up or comes to a parent-teacher conference.
- Make sure your child’s backpack stays with them. To make exchanges easier and ensure important documents or books aren’t left behind, help your child keep track of these things by keeping them in their backpack. Then, ensure the backpack stays with your child during exchanges between households.
- Be flexible. It may take time for everyone to adjust to the time-sharing plan with school being a new factor, so give yourself, your child, and your co-parent grace throughout the transition. You may also need to be flexible throughout the school year if there are canceled school days or half days that you did not account for in making your parenting plan.
Ironing Out Roadblocks | Back-to-School Parenting Plan Modifications
As we mentioned, it may take a while for both parents to get acclimated to the parenting plan, especially once school starts. To iron out roadblocks or complications, you may consider:
- Working with a parenting coordinator/mediator.
- Consulting with a family therapist.
- Modifying your parenting plan.
To modify an existing custody arrangement or parenting plan, you will need to file a Request to Change Custody or Visitation (PS-07) form and Child Support Information Sheet (CS-47). If you request a modification be made, you must prove that there has been a material change in circumstances for either parent, a change in the needs or the best interest of the child, or a circumstance that proves the change will benefit more than disrupt.
Reasons you may request a modification include but are not limited to:
- Changes in either parent’s work schedules or career
- Relocation of either parent to a new state, city, or home that is further from the child’s school
- Scheduling concerns because of a child’s afterschool activities or educational needs
- Relocation of either or both parents out of a school district
- Disagreements between parents on school choice, extracurricular activities, or other terms (if parents also share legal custody)
Need help with your child custody case or making modifications to existing court orders? With over three decades of experience, our attorney is equipped to help you understand your legal options and achieve the best possible case results. Contact Shaw Family Law online or via phone (205) 259-7650 to schedule a consultation.