In recent weeks, students in Washington and throughout the country have been returning to their classrooms to begin the 2023-2024 school year. If you’re one of many parents who filed for divorce during summer break, the back-to-school season could spark certain issues you were not expecting. For example, you might not expect meet-the-teacher night to cause child custody problems, although it can.
If you haven’t incorporated back-to-school-related details in your child custody agreement, something as seemingly simple as meet-the-teacher night can cause problems. What if you and your ex both show up, but you assumed you’d be the only parent attending since you have primary custody of your kids? The key to avoiding such problems is to write out terms of agreement ahead of time.
Discuss school-related issues and events before child custody proceedings
Perhaps you and your ex get along well and can attend the same school functions without being confrontational. If so, that’s fine. However, if you think it’s best for your children that you are not at their school at the same time, then drafting terms of agreement for school events is the best way to avoid conflict.
If you both want to attend meet-the-teacher night, you can agree to be there during separate time slots. Whatever works for your family throughout the year is okay, such as taking turns for sporting events, school plays or other special occasions. You’ll also want to agree about transportation. Is there anyone you wish to prohibit from picking up or dropping off your children at school? Put it in writing.
If you’re a non-custodial parent, you can make requests
Being a non-custodial parent following a divorce doesn’t mean abdicate your parental responsibilities or your rights, for that matter. If your ex is going to be the main contact for school officials regarding your children’s progress, safety, health, etc., you can request notification or copies of documents, such as report cards or notes from teachers.
Unless the court has restricted a parent’s privileges, both parents have a right to updates on their children’s academic status and their overall well-being, especially in relation to school. If your ex is trying to impede your parent/child relationship or keep you in the dark about school issues, you can bring the matter to the court’s attention.
Ask the teachers to get involved to help avoid child custody problems
It’s understandable that you’d like to maintain privacy regarding your divorce. However, it’s typically best to let your children’s teachers know about your child custody arrangement and to ask them to keep both parents in the loop as your family adapts to its new lifestyle.
Teachers can send out emails to both parents or create a group chat via text, especially if a particular child is having a problem at school, whether academic or in connection with coming to terms with your divorce. Working together as a team is the best way to avoid child custody problems at school. Do not, however, try to get the teachers to take sides in the conflict, or use them to gain information about your ex to use in litigation.