Due to the growing uncertainty surrounding in-person education, many parents are currently struggling to choose the appropriate schooling avenue for their children during back to school custody conversations. Although the back-to-school season is difficult for married couples, divorced parents typically struggle even more to determine logistics and establish routines. Typically, custody disputes peak around the beginning of the Fall semester as parents begin to plan the return of their students to the classroom. Although this school year looks very different for students across the country, history suggests that there will likely be no decrease in custody battles despite the looming pandemic. On the contrary, some experts claim that the United States will actually see a spike in these disputes as tough economic and social times thrive. As a result, here are six things that co-parents should consider during back to school custody discussions before making any educational decisions for their child:
- Unequal Custody–Which School? For intact families who choose public school, the decision as to which school a child will attend has been made for the parents already depending on their place of residence. For divorced parents, who oftentimes take up different residences, this decision is not as clear-cut, especially if the parents reside in different school districts. Typically, the child will attend the school that is assigned to the primary custodial parent’s place of residence. Although this decision usually happens automatically, the primary parent can petition the court to enter an order instructing the child to attend school in the partial custodial parent’s district if desired otherwise. In these situations, petitions are usually submitted when the partial parent’s school district provides certain educational advantages; as a result, courts usually grant these petitions to promote public schools and discourage the transition to private schools in search of better educational opportunities.
- Equal Custody–Which School? Although unequal custody agreements are more common, some parents do share equal custody and therefore have the same levels of rights and responsibilities. In equal custody situations, the child has the option to attend schools in either district, depending on the parents’ places of residence. Typically, parents and courts alike aim to maintain the status quo for the child and, for older children, try to stay within the same zoning district. Regardless, if both parents moved out of the previous school district after the separation, the child will be forced to move to one of the new public schools for which he/she qualifies.
- Simple Tips to Successful Co-Parenting. While co-parenting is by no means easy, there are some helpful tips to follow as a way to simplify the process. Experts recommend creating a parenting agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each parent; doing so not only helps organize the entire family’s schedule but also provides consistency for the affected child. Planning ahead is also a necessity, especially as children age and choose to become involved in extracurricular activities. Additionally, tracking all school expenses up front can help reduce confusion in the future where compensation is concerned.
- Courts Can Help. Despite the best of intentions, many families struggle to establish a new norm after the separation of the family’s parental figures. As a result, courts can offer conflict resolution if parents cannot agree on a plan for the child’s future. Notably, it is critical that these parents seek court intervention far enough in advance to prevent any problems with enrollment or registration.
- Existing Agreements Can be Modified. As a child gets older, the costs of childcare changes to reflect the child’s needs, wants, and interests. Consequently, existing agreements between parents may need to be modified to account for these lifestyle changes. While courts are valuable tools when first outlining primary agreements, many states allow co-parents to amend prior agreements and adapt the terms to fit new needs. Amending a pre-existing agreement allows parents to address all aspects of the child’s life with minimal involvement of the legal system, which saves time and money in the long run.
- Retaining an Attorney Helps. Retaining a family law attorney to help provide legal services relating to alimony, child support, custody, and other family law matters could potentially make the separation process much smoother for all parties involved. Strategizing with an experienced attorney will help reduce any confusion and help produce a solution as quickly as possible. Retaining professional help not only helps reduce the burden on the separated parents but also on the involved child.
Back-to-school season is undeniably a challenging time for divorced parents as endless questions can arise, creating a stressful situation for both the parents and the child. While there are no easy solutions for custody or family disputes, following the mentioned tips and thoroughly researching the subject can significantly help ease the process. As a result, all parents should be aware of the available tools to help lessen any complications that occur as a result of custody disputes.
Contact us today online or by phone for your free consultation for back to school custody issues.