Back to School Tips for Divorced Parents

By: Jessica N. Mazur

If you are recently divorced or separated and have children, as your kids are getting ready to go back to school, you may be thinking about the complications of co-parenting. Now that school is starting, you will need to navigate drop-offs and pick-ups for extracurricular activities, sick days, snow days, and a complex after-school calendar. We want to provide you with some key tips for navigating the back-to-school days after your divorce.

1. Use Technology to Create a Shared Family Calendar

With various apps and other forms of technology, everyone in your family—including yourself, your child, and your child’s other parent—can have access to a single calendar in which everyone inputs relevant information. For example, with a shared calendar, both you and your spouse can access information about your child’s after-school schedule or extracurricular activities, and the calendar can get updated if times or dates change. You should also be sure to use a calendar that will alert users if changes have been made. For example, if your child’s usual pickup time is 5:00 p.m. but that time recently changed to 6:00 p.m., the calendar can make sure the other parent knows.  Or if your child comes home with a notice for a recital or dance, you can add this to the calendar since those notices are not sent to both homes.

2. Plan Ahead for School Costs

From school supplies to extracurricular costs, you should work with the other parent to make a plan for sharing financial costs.  Some may argue these costs are included in child support.  Others may argue that the costs associated with getting the kids ready for school are so significant, such that child support isn’t sufficient.  Whatever the resolution, make sure your children aren’t impacted by the dispute and are able to show up at school with the new lunch box, book-bag or sneakers they wanted.

3. Make a Plan to Discuss Your Child’s School Events and Deadlines

When it comes to your child’s education and success in school, it is important to have a plan for working together. If possible, you should look at the dates of parent-teacher conferences during the year and aim to attend those together or schedule your own date to attend. You should also discuss your child’s homework and other important education deadlines (sign on to the parent portal where possible). When parents share information about a child’s homework and other school deadlines, neither parent will be caught off-guard after learning that a major project is coming due.  For older kids, it is important to have a discussion early on about how the parents will share college visits and helping with college applications.

4. Take Your Child to His or Her First Day of School Together

If you drop off your child at school, it is often best for the child if both parents drop off the child together at school. Likewise, if your child rides the school bus but gets dropped off at the bus stop, both parents should do the drop off. In being together, you can show your child that both parents plan to communicate effectively and work together for the child’s benefit.

5. Plan for Sick Days and Snow Days

There will be days when your child cannot attend school, either because your child is sick or because school has been canceled due to inclement weather. Since it can be difficult for newly divorced parents to communicate on short notice, it is important to make a plan for handling sick days and snow days.

6.  Consider How to Alleviate Your Child’s Anxiety

If mom and dad are living separate for the first time ever, your child may be anxious over what they are going to tell their friends or their teachers; and how they will handle telling their friends about mom or dad’s new house.  Explain that it’s OK to say “I don’t want to talk about it.”  Talk to them about how they want to handle questions that might come up and explain that maybe certain details (like what mom calls dad’s lawyer) should not be shared.  Tell your child’s teachers about the divorce or separation so that they can keep an eye out for concerns or show understanding and emotional support should the need arise.  Perhaps they can talk to the child in private, instead of resorting to immediate disciplinary measures if the child acts out or doesn’t complete homework.  Consider acting from a position of problem-solving rather than laying down the law.

Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney for More Information

The months immediately after any divorce or separation are tough. However, with some basic planning, you can take some of the stress out of this otherwise stressful time and be able to focus on the excitement of the start of a new school year. If you are considering divorce or separation, or if you need assistance with a modification of custody, parenting time or support, contact Jessica Mazur at jmazur@hoaglandlongo.com or call (732) 545-4717 today.