As a Raleigh divorce lawyer, I know that back-to-school can be a difficult time for divorced parents, especially when it comes to handling child custody.  Here are three tips to follow to make sure back-to-school runs as smoothly as possible for you and your children.

1.  Be Consistent 

You and your co-parent should have worked out a parenting agreement or may have a child custody order which designated where your children would be during the school week and on the weekends.  If there aren’t any changes from the previous school year, try to stick to your current schedule.

2.  Make Sure Your Current Child Custody Agreement Reflects Your  Children’s Needs

When you created your child custody arrangement, you and your co-parent probably considered factors such as your children’s ages, your careers, child care arrangements, and your children’s extracurricular activities.  If there are new concerns that may affect this year’s schedule, then you should try to come to an agreement with your co-parent and keep it as consistent as possible.

It is also important to make sure that your schedule is realistic.  While being flexible is a tip outlined below, if the schedule is going to constantly change because of someone’s work schedule or outside obligations, it is good to factor in the realities of your schedules when working out a school schedule.

Try your best to avoid a plan that changes every week.  These sporadic schedules can make the back to school experience difficult for your children.  Children have enough to handle when dealing with their parents divorcing, so try your best to maintain stability if possible.  Just like you probably did for your summer vacation schedule, work out a simple custody schedule for the school year and stick to it.

3.  Plan Ahead and Be Flexible

When school starts, there will be plenty of extracurricular activities that could make your custody schedule difficult, including sports practices, tutoring, and school events.  Try to plan for unexpected events (working late, sickness, medical emergencies, or a death in the family) ahead of time by allowing you and your co-parent to agree to alter the custody schedule if necessary.

If these activities will occur during your co-parents custodial time, you will need to use teamwork in getting the children to their events.  You can also figure out who will go to what school event, or if there are any you are comfortable attending together.

4.  Share Information

One of the most common complaints I see as a family law attorney is that one parent is not sharing information with the other.  In North Carolina, our law presumes that both parents have equal access to all educational records.  The easiest way to avoid coming in to court or hashing out your family drama with your child’s school is to share information.  In Wake County, parents often can each have their own parent portal with access to grades, reports, and communicate with the teacher.  You can find a link to create your account here.

If your school does not have a parent portal, another option is to always copy the other parent on any communication and ask the teacher for two copies of any school notices.

5.  Meet the Teacher (Together if Possible)

Meeting the teacher together if possible is a great way to start the year.  You can explain your family dynamic (without including details on the drama) to avoid awkward miscommunications with your child and their teacher.  Also, it is not uncommon for children of divorce (especially if the divorce is a new development) to require extra attention or patience, and it is best for everyone that your child’s teacher is prepared for that.

If you have a history of domestic violence in your home or you do not feel safe with your ex, it would be best to set separate meeting with your co-parent. Safety is key.  If you have a domestic violence protection order that has restrictions on someone coming to the school it is important to make sure your child’s school administrator is aware of the order and has a copy.

If you anticipate back-to-school creating issues this year, you should contact an experienced Raleigh Divorce Lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options and figure out a back-to-school plan.  Contact our office and schedule a consult today!

Related resources: 7 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting in 2019Ways to Avoid Seeing Your Ex for Custody ExchangesWhat is a Domestic Violence Protective Order?