Back to School Planning for Divorced Parents
For many families, the first day of school marks the beginning of the new school year, new teachers, new activities and, for some, even a new school. This, in itself, already makes the perfect recipe for stress. Stress during this time can be exacerbated by an uncooperative co-parent, especially if your visitation schedule is now out of date, and therefore causes more problems than it solves.
There are several items divorced parents should do to help them prepare and organize for the coming year:
Reviewing Parenting Plan: Your parenting plan outlines ALL of the terms of your daily visitation schedule, and therefore may be a daily tool used by either parent. Due to life in general, these plans can be quickly out dated with new sports, extracurricular activities, or parenting concerns. In order to get in front of any possible issues, we always recommend parents to review their parenting plans at the beginning of the school year for any possible concerns. Even if there have been changes both parties agree to, it is always wise to memorialize it in the parenting plan.
Update Parenting Plan: Most schools, sports teams, or extracurricular activities provide an annual school calendar which lists all important dates and schedules. This is great information to use when determining if any updates to your parenting plan will need to be made, and more importantly, it can get done before an issue arises from it. Using a "share calendar" with your co-parent can be a great way to sort out various schedules involving the children's activities as long as both parents are contributing an equal amount of cooperation.
Prepare to Update Parenting Plan: Often times, parenting plans require both parents to discuss and agree upon the children's involvement in certain activities. The steps mentioned above can ensure you get this taken care of before the event arrives, but some activities do not wait for divorce parents to come to an agreement. So, it is imperative that you start discussing your child’s interest in a program or activity early on so that a decision can be made well in advance of tryouts or registration. There is nothing worse than having to ask a Judge to decide what activity a child will or will not participate in because his or her parents could not put their issues aside for the sake of their child.
Financing Updates to Parenting Plan: Making plans for various activities is a great start, but you also will need to be able to pay for it. Many parenting plans require parents to exchange information on expenses for upcoming (or past) activities. It is important that you follow your own parenting plan regarding reimbursement of expenses as many parenting plans include a specific time frame that this needs to be done in. Provide the information before the school year gets well underway, and be sure to provide a copy of any receipts, invoices or other documentation when requesting a contribution or reimbursement from the other parent.
Organizing the Updated Parenting Plan: Schools, sports, or activities often require specific forms each year such as medical exams (health, dental, optical), change of emergency contacts or persons authorized to pick-up, and change of address. These documents may require both parents to sign the forms and return them to school by a specific date. Any delay in getting this information completed, executed and returned can cause interruptions in your child's schedule.
Extra tips: If there are any Orders of Protection involving the children, be sure that the school has copies of the order, and is aware of the situation. The beginning of the school year is always the best time to update the school with any new changes, and can help the school help you with any issues that may arise.
*Always document the requests in writing or confirm the request in writing if the original communication was done over the telephone or in person. If you need help pursuing any of these options, please contact our office at
(314) 351-3100, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org