In part one of our series of back-to-school tips for divorced or separated parents, we reviewed some of the challenges related to realizing that your custody agreement might need to be modified, and dealing with communication and scheduling challenges. If you haven’t read that article, you might want to start there.
Back to school really is a tough time for co-parents and children. But, when one parent is uncooperative or outright dishonest, things can get really dicey. By always keeping in mind that your child is more important than your justified resentment, your desire to be validated, or your need to be in control, you can help reduce your stress and avoid passing that stress onto your child.
YOUR PARENTING OR VISITATION PLAN
If you’ve got a court-approved plan, stick to that. If your child’s new school-year schedule requires modifications to that plan, don’t try to work it out yourself with a difficult or duplicitous co-parent. Talk with your attorney and see if the two of you can come up with a solution. If you can’t, put together a plan that you think will work for you, your child, and your co-parent, and ask the court to make the changes. It is important that you consider the needs, and the schedule of your co-parent while going through this process. As much as you may want to use this process to prove that they are behaving badly, adding your bad behavior to theirs isn’t going to help anyone. For your child’s sake, you have to be the bigger person and set a good example. The judge will very likely take it into account when making a final decision. Better yet, your child will see how you are acting, and learn from your example.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TEACHERS
This is especially important if you’ve got a difficult relationship with your co-parent. Make sure your child’s teachers and school administrators know who is authorized to pick your child up from school and who is going to participate in school activities. And, if anything is happening between your child and their co-parent that could impact their behavior at school, it is important to let teachers know that too. If your child is acting out because of upsets that are happening at home, you don’t want them to be punished for their behavior. A sensitive and caring teacher will be able to help them through this difficult time, but if they aren’t aware of what is happening, they could inadvertently make things worse for your child.
MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY WHEN YOU CAN
A regular schedule for homework time, family time, playtime, and other activities can go a long way toward helping your child through the back-to-school transition. If they lack structure at their other parent’s home, the safety and security of a consistent and dependable schedule and set of rules in your home will help a lot. You cannot control what your co-parent does. But, you can look out for your child’s interests. If homework is not getting done, appointments are being missed, or other parenting responsibilities are not being met while your child is with your co-parent, you can get help. Document what is happening. Talk to your family attorney and ask them to come up with a plan for holding your co-parent responsible for their behavior. It may be that another trip to court will be required. Don’t be afraid of that. As long as you’ve got an experienced attorney who is working in your child’s best interests, and you are being 100 percent honest with them, everything should work out for the best.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
It may be expensive to purchase two sets of schoolbooks and supplies. But making sure that your child has everything they need at each of their homes, could go a long way toward helping them have a successful school year. It’ll be one less thing for you and your co-parent to argue about, and one less potentially stress-filled ordeal for your child.
If your child’s back-to-school schedule is throwing a wrench into your co-parenting efforts, give the Women & Children’s Law Center in Oklahoma City a call. We’re here to help. Our experienced and caring team is always looking out for our client's best interests, and the best interests of their children.