Co-parenting after divorce is often a minefield, especially when there is still parental conflict or resentment because of what happened during the marriage or the divorce. The issues associated with the start of the school year can strain the co-parenting relationship as they negotiate the last days of summer, the first day of school, the purchase of school supplies and school clothes, child care arrangements, extracurricular activities, pickups and dropoffs, and much more. This time stresses the need for more communication, and unfortunately raises the risk of miscommunication between co-parents who probably have little tolerance or patience for the other.
A few helpful tips for avoiding pitfalls when starting off the school year (and lowering the risk for co-parent miscommunication and potential litigation):
1) Get information directly from the school by enrolling in your child’s school’s Parent Portal System, if available. These programs allow parents to access information on grading, attendance, discipline and assignments.
2) Establish your own relationship with teachers, coaches, and school officials. Coordinate with the other parent a rotating schedule to bring in snacks and supplies so that the effort is shared and that one parent is not always bearing the burden (and accompanying resentment). Review the school calendar and add the school breaks and holidays to your personal calendar versus relying on the other parent to communicate this information. This goes for extracurricular activities as well.
3) Extend courtesy to the other parent. One of the greatest lessons we can pass on to our children is applying the Golden Rule in our relationships. For example, if you have possession of your child on a holiday or a special milestone such as your child’s first dance, invite the other parent to come over for pictures and to participate. A little goes a long way.
The above tips will help you maintain focus on your child and demonstrate to your child (and co-parent even if they don’t readily acknowledge it) that your co-parenting relationship is important to you and that you have your child’s best interest at heart. If nothing else, it will provide good evidence in Court.