Parents raising children together after they divorce or break up have to share both parenting time and the authority to make choices about the children and the family. Sharing those responsibilities and rights is often the most pressing challenge for couples going their separate ways.
Even if you have found temporary solutions that work for your family during the summer months, the new school year will bring with it fresh challenges as you continue co-parenting. Whether you are in the early stages of developing your parenting plan or have an older one that may require formal modifications, there are three different matters that you need to consider as a parent sharing custody of school-age children.
Who is responsible for a school-day emergency?
When parents divide custody during the school year, their focus is often on being with the children in the afternoon and evening or getting them to school in the morning. Neither parent may be in a comfortable position to simply leave work if a child falls ill or has a disciplinary issue at school.
However, that is likely exactly what will need to happen. You need to already agree about how you will divide the obligation to go get the children from the school and provide child care for them if they can’t remain in class.
How will you handle practices and games for sports?
Extracurricular activities are a big part of children’s educational development. Whether you have a kindergartner about to join a t-ball team or a high schooler running cross country, your family will need to discuss who will attend the events and who will cover the costs for participating in those sports or other hobbies. Ideally, parents will be able to both be present for major extracurricular events and will agree to share the cost for their children’s activities.
What kind of performance do you expect from the children?
Obtaining the best performance from your children in school and in other areas of life requires stability, reinforcement and consistent expectations.
You and your ex need to agree on what kind of grades you expect the children to obtain and also what kinds of rules you expect them to follow during the school year. For example, requiring they finish their homework before they get on social media is a rule that will only work if you enforce it equally at both houses.
Addressing the complications that can make shared parenting time and legal authority more difficult will help your family minimize conflict despite changes in your co-parenting arrangements.