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Back-to-school time can be a powder keg for divorced or divorcing parents, especially when it comes to dealing with child custody.
While "divorce season" kicks off on New Years Day, as two divorce-mediation experts write for The Huffington Post, divorcing or divorced couples with children will test their mettle when summer ends and the school year begins. Meeting with teachers may take a back seat to battling with your ex about taking your kids to school.
Help yourself, and your children, by avoiding unnecessary conflict and remembering to update your child custody arrangements. If you haven't done so yet, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
1. Simple and Consistent Is Best.
You and your ex-spouse should have worked out a parenting agreement during your divorce which outlined where your child would be on school nights and weekends. If your child(ren)'s new school year does not involve any new schools, bus routes, or extracurricular activities, try not to monkey with last year's schedule too much.
However, if there are new childcare factors affecting this year's back-to-school season, then you should at the very least try to keep your custody arrangement simple and consistent. The HuffPo contributors recommend avoiding a plan that varies from week to week, which can confuse your child and make the back-to-school experience even tougher. Just like you did with your summer vacation schedule, work out a simple custody schedule for the school year and stick to it.
2. Be Flexible With Visitation.
It's easy to make your child custody schedule work for you and your spouse when your kids have nothing on their plates. But when school ramps up again, there will be plenty of opportunity for band practice, recitals, and science fairs to get in the way of visitation times. Try to plan for these unexpected events ahead of time, allowing for substituted visitation times or even virtual visitation where there is a conflict.
3. Plan Ahead -- Both of You.
Back-to-school season also presents a whole new academic calendar studded with parent-teacher conferences and seemingly random holidays (maybe they get Tu Bishvat off this year). By planning ahead (with your ex) about what the kids are doing for Thanksgiving, you won't be embroiled in legal battles over their travel plans. You can also work out who will go to what parent-required school events, and if you're comfortable attending together.
Feeling uncomfortable broaching the subject without some legal advice? Contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.