Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

A new school year brings challenges for divorced parents

In most regions across California, schools are either in session or preparing to open for students. You may look forward to the sense of order and routine the school year promises, especially if your summer was chaotic or stressful.

If any of that summer stress was related to the dissolution of your marriage, it is understandable that you are looking for the school year to offer some semblance of normalcy. However, even that routine can be frustrating and disruptive if you and your former spouse have not made a parenting plan that will head off any conflict and maintain some tranquility for the sake of the children.

Working as partners

As difficult as it may be to communicate with your former spouse at this time, your children may suffer from any contention they witness between you. Fortunately, there are many ways to communicate without ever being face-to-face with your spouse. This way, you can remain on the same page regarding your child's academic progress, discipline and overall well-being.

Some options you can investigate include the following:

  • Accessing an online portal offered by your child's school
  • Locating important dates and deadlines on classroom websites
  • Requesting duplicate copies of newsletters or teacher memos
  • Signing up for shared parenting calendars that some websites offer
  • Asking your child's teacher to include both parents on group emails
  • Attending parent conferences together
  • Texting or emailing your co-parent when your child is home sick from school, has makeup work or has a large project to complete

Some parenting experts suggest meeting with your former spouse early in the school year to set parameters for which of you will be responsible for school assignments and projects. These requirements can be stressful enough for a child, and you can go a long way in reducing that stress by minimizing the tension and sharing the load. While it may be tempting to leave the homework and book reports for your spouse to crack the whip, it is not fair to your child.

It is important that your child's teacher understands the situation. If possible, the teacher can provide separate passwords for access to online information or send important memos to both of your email accounts. Anytime you communicate with your child's teacher, you have the opportunity to take the high road by copying your ex-spouse on an email or relaying information from meetings your spouse was unable to attend. Of course, if the school year gives rise to more complex custody issues, you should turn to your legal advisor for help.

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