Janet L. Goehle, Attorney at Law
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Co-parenting after divorce: it's almost back-to-school time

It is already midsummer and while it may be hard to imagine, it is not too early to start thinking about preparing for the kids heading back to school. It can be especially important for divorced parents to start the planning process early, particularly if there is a high level of family tension or if major decisions need to be made such as whether a son or daughter should change schools and how that might impact the child's primary residence.

Logistical matters can also arise like choosing new after-school and evening activities or child care programs as well as arranging for the pick-ups and drop-offs and who will provide the related transportation.

To back up, a divorced couple with children will already have a negotiated settlement agreement or judge-crafted court order in place that lays out the terms of physical custody like where the children live and the parenting time schedule as well as of legal custody like who has the power to make major life decisions for the kids.

If one parent feels that it would be in a child's best interest to change schools or spend more time living with a different parent during the school year, it is a good idea to start negotiating with the other parent now, especially if that parent has the right to make educational or residential decisions alone or jointly. Consult a lawyer to find out if the changes can be negotiated informally or whether it will be necessary to return to court. Since school is approaching, beginning this process now rather than later will make for an easier transition.

At this point, if they cannot come to agreement, the parents may benefit from retaining a neutral third party to help them negotiate any school- or residence-related questions. Ask an attorney about the benefits in Minnesota of using a mediator, Parenting Consultant or Parenting Time Expeditor to help facilitate the negotiation process.

Even if crucial issues related to back-to-school do not need to be changed, there are other things that can make the upcoming season work better for kids and parents alike. The Huffington Post provides several suggestions about issues to resolve, including:

  • Who will pay for school supplies and clothing and who does the shopping
  • How will the children's schedules be communicated
  • How will teachers communicate with the parents
  • How will each parent communicate important information related to school, activities or child care with the other parent
  • How will school conferences be handled
  • How can technology help with scheduling and communication

Begin the discussion about major and minor, but still important, back-to-school issues with your ex now to make things smoother later.

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