Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law
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Partnering with your ex during the school year

The start of a new school year means a blank slate for you and your child. You may look at September as a time to make new resolutions that are even more meaningful than those made in January, especially if past years have presented stumbling blocks. If many of these struggles occurred because of miscommunication or resentment between you and your spouse, you may wish to amend that for the sake of your child.

Working with a co-parent after a divorce or breakup is a challenge, to be certain. There may be times when you want to get even or act out on your feelings of resentment. Perhaps in the past, you did just this. However, this year can be different, and family counselors offer some tips for making it a success.

Open lines of communication

You love your child, and if you can admit that your ex has the same love, you may be tempted to use that affection as a weapon by keeping him or her in the dark about your child's school year. Fortunately, technology has advanced so that communication no longer requires you to meet with your ex or – even worse – use your child as a messenger to pass on vital details. Some ways you can keep your child's other parent in the loop include:

  • Copying your co-parent on emails to your child's teacher
  • Texting or emailing your co-parent when your child misses school because of illness
  • Sharing access to electronic communication, such as teacher websites or online portals
  • Using online calendars or planning websites to coordinate school events, extracurricular activities and project deadlines

It is likely that your child will come home with assignments to complete, such as book reports or science fair projects. While you may consider leaving the heavy work for your spouse or sabotaging the project to create more hassle for your co-parent, remembering the effect such actions will have on your child may help you refrain from petty vengeance. Instead, you and your co-parent may try to work out a plan for such assignments, demonstrating that you are still a family despite the divorce.

Your child is the common good

While you may find it as difficult to communicate with your ex-spouse after the divorce as you did when you were married, family advisors urge parents to remember that children are the ultimate victims when parents remain at war with each other. Using events such as parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights or class pageants to demonstrate cooperation and shared interest in your child's school success can only benefit your child, even if it means putting your own emotions aside.

You may put all your effort into your good resolutions for this school year, and with hope, by next summer may find you and your co-parent working together as a team for the benefit of your child. However, it is good to know that, if serious legal matters of custody or child support arise, you can seek professional guidance from a California family law attorney.

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