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Navigating Child Custody: Back to School Edition

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The start of a new school year is coming up quickly.  And with it, a whole new set of child custody questions and concerns for co-parents. While some parents can simply focus on buying school supplies and keeping up with the latest backpack trends, others have to worry about how their child custody arrangement will be impacted.

If this is the case for your family focus on starting the school year with a cooperative spirit.  Remember, your primary concern should be your child’s educational success.  Keeping this goal in mind, here are some tips to help make the process as easy and stress free as possible:

1.  Scheduling: Make sure everyone is on the same page

You may have been operating under a temporary summer schedule for the last three months. Make sure all parties are clear that you will be (most likely) reverting back to your same school year schedule and clearly define how that transition will work to avoid conflict. Communicate with your co-parent to make sure he or she is aware of what time the school day starts and what time after school pick up will be.  Both of you should know about homework assignments or the soccer practice schedule.  No matter if your child is at your house or not, either parent should be in the loop. When in doubt, consult your custody order.

2.  Back to School Shopping is a Joint Job

Have your finances changed during the summer? Does your child need a new school uniform or back pack? Both you and your child’s other parent should try and coordinate what you will purchase for the coming year. By seeing where you can split the costs, you can avoid spending unnecessarily. This does not mean you have to skip down the isles of Staples together, but it should mean that you shop efficiently so as not to overlap unnecessarily.

3. Attend Important School Events with a Positive Attitude

Most schools provide parents with a copy of their academic calendar in paper form and also post it online. First, go over the schedule in advance and make sure your child’s other parent is aware of all important dates. Divide the responsibilities as much as possible and know who will be getting your child to a specific event with everything he or she needs to be prepared. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your co-parent, you will both hopefully be at important school events and functions. As much as you can, try and be civil during these interactions to make them as stress-free as possible for your child. Also, make sure to inform the other parent of any events they may not be aware of that are coming up.

4. Keep Focus on Your Child’s Education

Back to school time is not a place to escalate any parental competition by seeing who can buy the fanciest backpack or get your child the nicest shoes.  These gestures are transparent and can only lead to more conflict.  Keep the focus on the reason for school in the first place; educating your child and ensuring a bright future.

5.  Two Parents, Two Backpacks

Get a separate back pack for each parent to help your child stay out of the middle.  Your child will obviously be responsible for the transfer of some items, but having two backpacks shifts some of the burden to the parents.

By keeping these tips in mind, hopefully your family with have another successful school year!

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