Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to School

We're more than halfway through summer vacation so it's time to start thinking about the upcoming school year.  Divorce decrees and custody orders provide that parents are to share expenses for "educational expenses" and "extracurricular activities" but oftentimes the provision doesn't really explain what expenses are included or whether the parents have to agree before one parent pays the expense and sends the other parent the bill.  Therefore, it's best to seek clarification and do the best that you can to facilitate communication about these expenses and to foster the coparent relationship.

Educational expenses.  Typically, this includes private school tuition, registration fees, books, etc.  It does not usually include daycare expenses, after-school programs, school clothes, etc.  Private school is a major decision that should be discussed at length before the custodial parent enrolls the child in a private school and expects the non-custodial parent to pick up half the tab.  The Court will not consider that a reasonable expectation.  So, if you're considering going from public to private, be sure to talk with the other parent to see if it is financially viable for him or her.  If not, then you may have to go it alone.

Extracurricular activities.  This is frequently a major source of contention between parents not only because of associated costs but also because of the time demands.  A child's schedule is demanding especially if they are active in sports, school, and interests.  Parents become upset when they are not involved in the decision making process about which activities the child should participate in and the schedule involved.  For example, if a non-custodial parent only gets to see the child on Thursday evening and every other weekend, that parent is going to be very "protective" of his or her time with the child and often wants to have that one-on-one time with the child without having to be a spectator at the child's game.  Consequently, this becomes a source of tension.  Therefore, it is crucial that the custodial parent work together with the non-custodial parent and not schedule things that coincide with that parent's time unless he or she agrees.

Communicate.  Do what's in your child's best interest while also taking into consideration the other parent's finances and schedule.  If you feel you cannot communicate with the other parent, then seek outside assistance  such as a parenting coordinator who is much cheaper than an attorney (or therapist) and who will help you and the other parent learn how resolve disputes without contention or running to the court.