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Child custody: avoiding school-related co-parenting conflicts

It may seem like no big deal on the surface, but sending the kids back to school is actually one of the biggest challenges many Tennessee parents face in adjusting to life after a divorce. Why? Think about it -- school supplies, new clothes, meals, homework policies, transportation, graded assignments and report cards, planning for contingencies like extracurricular activities, inclement weather or sickness -- all of it requires communication and planning.

Whatever the nature of your child custody or visitation agreement (unless the other parent is completely out of the picture or you have a protective order), here are three common "problem" areas along with a few suggestions that may make this transition easier.

Expenses - While it's typical for the spouse with primary custody to pay for school supplies and new clothes, co-parents also agree to share these expenses fairly frequently. If that's the route you choose, make sure to decide ahead of time who will be buying what, make sure you keep your receipts and put it all down in writing.

Routines and contingencies - Before the school year starts, get together and decide how the two of you are going to manage the "normal" weekly routine. Will your child be taking the bus? Will the two of you be sharing driving duties? When should homework be done each night? What time should "bedtime" be? What about contingencies and school events? Keep the plan as simple as you can and when you've written it all down, go ahead and explain it to your kids so they know what to expect too.

Communication with teachers, the school and each other - Sharing, courtesy and common sense are the keys here. Don't withhold information about your child's education from each other. Don't try to draw teachers or other school employees into the middle of your conflicts with each other. Do meet with your child's new teacher and let them know the situation. Do arrange for separate notifications about progress reports, events, changes in school policy and other "official" matters to be sent to both of you. Do keep graded assignments and tests in a separate folder in your child's backpack so that you'll both be able to track their progress.

Lastly, remember that your child custody and visitation arrangement is a big adjustment for both of you and that in the big picture, your child's best interests are what really matters.

Source: The Washington Times, "Back to school tips for divorced parents," Myra Fleischer, Aug. 20, 2012

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The Law Office of Steven C. Girsky
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Clarksville, TN 37040

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