It’s that time of year again, when children head back to school.  For parents without adequate custody orders, it may also be time to head back to court.  With some advance planning for school and guidance from a lawyer about your legal responsibilities, it is possible to make the grade as A+ parents with a shared custody schedule.

Here are some tips for making a smooth transition to the new school year with shared custody rights and responsibilities.

 + Enrollment in schoolThe first, most obvious task is enrolling the children in school.  If one parent has primary physical custody, the children should go to school where that parent resides.  When the parents equally share physical custody and they live in different school districts, the parents should decide together where to enroll the children. This decision is one of the responsibilities of having joint legal custody.  If there is a disagreement, and a court order is required, the school year starts at a hectic pace.

 +Tell the school about yourselfShare your personal information, custody orders and parenting schedule with the school.  It is essential that the school has accurate contact information for both parents, including phone numbers and email addresses.  The school can’t be expected to keep track of the details of each custody schedule, but they should be able to reach either parent or an established emergency contact person when needed.  There should be a record of whether the child will ride the bus after school or be picked up by a parent or another person.  If you are transporting your child to or from school, make sure you are on time!  It is a factor that the Judge will consider if a court hearing is necessary to determine custody rights.

 +Meet the teacher:With joint legal custody, both parents have a right to information and contact with the school about educational progress or issues.  The beginning of the school year is time to meet the teacher and establish a preferred method of sharing information. While communication between the parents should work most efficiently, you can prove your genuine interest and learn more about your children’s education by working with the school personnel directly.  Talk to the teacher about your family situation without disparaging the other parent, and arrange to have school records and documents provided to you.  Share and discuss report cards, progress reports and other school-related documents with the other parent.

 +Coordinate the school calendar with your custody schedule.  When you are developing a shared custody schedule, it is important to work around the school schedule.  If possible, make your custody transfers happen at the beginning or the end of the school day.  Don’t forget to determine who will take care of the children on school holidays and in-service days, and include these details in your parenting plan.  If you create a calendar that incorporates the schools events with your custody schedule, you will have an opportunity to arrange child care and transportation in advance.    Both parents should be aware of important events that may occur at the school during their scheduled custodial time.  It requires cooperation and communication for parents to attend school events with minimal disruption to the child’s routine.   Commit to being civil to each other at school functions and avoid embarrassing your children by discussing custody issues in the presence of others.

+ Do your homeworkFind out what your children need in order to succeed in school.  Learn the rules about attendance, tardiness, discipline and academics.  If the children have homework, you will need to make sure that they do it during your custodial time.  Schools keep excellent records of these requirements, and it is easy to match problems with the parent who had custody on any particular day.  Study the student handbooks, the letters and the reports from teachers about your children’s progress, and learn all you can about their education.

School should not be a battleground to establish who is a better parent, but it is a place to show your parenting skills.Let school be a place for your children to have fun, learn, achieve and excel, and forget about the issues between mom and dad.  If you are trying to create a custody schedule that will work during the school year, stop and ask yourself: what’s in the best interest of my child? It gets you an A+ every time.

For advice and information about custody, divorce and other family law issues, contact the Mazza Law Group and arrange a meeting with an experienced family law attorney.