If you are divorced and co-parenting your child (or children), many questions arise when the child is getting ready to go back to school. Some of the decisions you make can have a direct influence on your child’s schooling and can either make it harder or easier for them to move forward with their education.

Remember that neither parent wants to be left in the dark when it comes to their child’s education. Try to think about what is important to you as a parent regarding your child’s education, and make sure those details are included in your agreement or order.

If you have not included educational decisions in the parenting agreement or support order documents, you probably should address it as soon as possible. The goal should be to look at all the questions that may come up involving your child’s education and solve the issues before they become problems.

All types of education questions directly affect your child’s future. Many children have a hard enough time in school as it is, and co-parents have to support their child in their education.

When co-parenting is involved in the educational process, things such as expenses, location of the school, transportation, uniforms, and even what curriculum your child will pursue has to be discussed before the school year begins. If either parent tutored the child or helped with homework before the divorce, will they continue to do so? These issues, and others, should be discussed beforehand with your family law attorney.

If they have not been there are still things you can do to remedy the situation now. Your family law attorney, and both parents, should go over the details involved and draw up a fair agreement that will help your child’s education the most. Issues such as custody, expenses, activities, and even the sharing of information about your child’s schooling should be detailed and agreed to before school begins.

What Would a Back to School Checklist Include for Parents that Co-parent their Child?

  • Determine who has the significant decision-making authority involving your child’s education. Two types of custody exist – legal and physical custody. Physical custody refers to who physically has the actual custody of the children, as well as when your parenting time begins and ends. Legal custody means who has decision-making authority for major decisions concerning the children. Major decisions generally include health, education, religion, and other decisions that are serious and may affect your child. Day-to-day decisions not otherwise spelled out in your order are usually made by the parent who has day-to-day care of the child.
  • Review Your Order or Agreement. The terms of the order or agreement should guide all of your major parenting decisions, including those about your child’s education. If parents cannot otherwise agree, the order or agreement would dictate the decision to be made.
  • Ensure Each Parent has Access to Information. Once you have decided on the school your child will be attending and made the other pertinent decisions, other factors such as ensuring that each parent is listed as a contact will assist with a smooth transition. This contact information should be updated each year, or if either parent’s contact information changes. When one parent is responsible for forwarding necessary information to the other parent, problems can occur. If this is required, do so quickly and decide on a suitable method of easily getting this transfer of information completed.
  • Talk to Your Ex-Spouse/Co-Parent Often (If Possible). This is an incredibly important point. Plan to have a specified time for regular face-to-face meetings with your ex-spouse in order to discuss the decisions that need to be made. If it is about education, be prepared with information regarding the issue you’re addressing, so that you and your ex can get the decision made then and there. Plan to attend this meeting with an open mind, and with two goals in mind — to explain all options and your position to your ex and fully hear the other parent on his or her position. As co-parents, no matter what other differences you may have, the welfare of your child needs to be the most important part of any serious discussion. This is a rule that most co-parents can agree on.
  • Consider Modifying your Order/Agreement. As children get older, their needs constantly change. Some of the points that used to affect them now have little or no bearing at all. Your child goes from elementary to middle school, high school and maybe college, so change is absolute. If questions now come up that are more difficult, or you simply cannot agree, then contact your family attorney. Your family law attorney truly cares about you and your child. They will always help you make decisions that give you peace of mind during this difficult time.

What is the Value of a Parenting Plan? 

Your child’s first school year after your separation or divorce will be a challenging time for your whole family. It will require you to consider a change in your outlook on how you will help your child thrive through the school year now that you’re raising them in separate homes.

It also compels you and your co-parent to consider how you plan to handle various school-related situations that impact your child. Make sure you have a dedicated law firm, committed to providing you and your family the best legal representation that they can, draft up your order so that as many of the educational questions (and other serious matters) are agreed to and drafted ahead of time.

As other serious questions come up, your family attorney will be invaluable in changing the order, so that you, your co-parent, and especially your child are satisfied with the decision. The future and the happiness of your child will depend on many of the serious decisions you and your co-parent make.