Get Ready for School: How to Make Your Divorce Stay Out of Your Children's Schoolwork

Summer is nearing its end. Many schools now start mid-August, which means you have even less time to get the school issues resolved. It is best to plan ahead by negotiating a good parenting plan that resolves most school issues such as which school will the child(ren) attend, who will be responsible for homework and how parent-teacher conferences will be assigned. Planning ahead means even before the end of the previous school year.  You can incorporate the lessons learned from mistakes and successes.  If something did not work because of someone's work schedule or character, changes can now be made. Once you reach an agreement, make sure the parenting plan is reduced to writing and that you follow it.  No map will get you to where you want to be if you never follow it while driving.  

In reality, most parents realize that there is a conflict mid-August and scramble to find solutions. Sometimes, if the conflict is truly recent and there is an emergency, divorcing parents can seek the court's assistance by way of an ex parte hearing where the court can resolve school issues on a short notice. However, if the parent knows about the conflict long before school is about to start, the court may not be so inclined to hear you on an ex parte basis and may set the matter for hearing on a regular calendar, which means that your child will be in the midst of a parental conflict on school issues while attending school. Children have enough to worry about at the start of a new school year than overhearing fights about who is to do homework assignments and who is to attend conferences. Worse yet, your poor timing may force a child to change schools mid-semester. Think about what that means to your child. They may not like to change schools mid-semester especially when it comes to leaving their friends. So, plan ahead and start talking about school issues as early as you think a conflict may ensue.  

Have a discussion with the other parent about school issues even before the end of the proceeding school year.  Talk about where the child should go to school if there is going to be a change. Discuss homework and extracurricular activities, hopefully learning from mistakes and successes from the previous year.  Discuss future calendars of how homework will be handled. After you and the other parent set up a plan, talk to your child(ren) about it and incorporate their ideas into the plan if necessary. If you make it a team effort, your child will feel more included and mobilized to action. Mid-summer and then again right before school starts, re-discuss everything to ensure continued understanding. This will also help you in court if the other parent all of a sudden changed their mind on any issue. 

Talk to the other parent about attending school performances and other extracurricular activities to avoid any potential public moments of embarrassment for the child(ren) at the performance. If stepparents are to attend any of them, make sure everyone knows about it and is committed to making the encounters peaceful.  

Again, once understanding is reached, reduce it to writing.  If you have a pending court action, file the stipulation and make it an order. The more details it contains, the better its potential for being followed. If something changes once school starts, you can always amend your agreement. 

If you do not reach an agreement, file a Request for Order as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for the court to resolve the conflict.  And no matter what you do, do NOT involve your child(ren) in the conflict.  Keep them out.  Their childhood only happens once!