As Fall begins, our children head back to school. This can create challenges for separated parents, from disagreements about which school to attend to adjusting to a new schedule. Your time with your children may be impeded by homework time and extra-curricular activities.
Keeping a few key points in mind will make the transition into the school year easier.
Familiarize yourself with your child’s school. The internet is a great place to begin. What time does school begin? What time does school end? Are there any shorter days, or school-specific off-days? What are the dates for Winter and Spring Break? Taking a few minutes to tentatively plan the next 9 months will help avoid last-minute changes throughout the year. If you would like to spend your vacation time visiting family out-of-state this year, now is the time to plan ahead.
Be involved. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, and offer to help during the year. Ask if there are volunteer opportunities within the classroom. If work obligations prevent you from being available during the day, perhaps you can donate school supplies or books to the classroom. Open a line of communication with your child’s teachers and commit to stay involved wherever needed. Make sure to attend back-to-school nights and parent-teacher conferences.
Make sure Administration knows your name. Speak to the school administration (Principal, Vice-Principal, Counselor). Advise administration that you want to make sure that both parents are listed on the emergency contact list. Provide a copy of your current custody orders for the school to keep in their file, or at the very least, let them know that it is available at a moment’s notice.
Communicate your concerns. If you believe that the other parent may make school attendance difficult, or will not follow the court-ordered schedule, communicate your concerns to the school administration. Teachers and principals are becoming more familiar with custodial schedules and may already have protocols in place to ensure your child’s safety. This is especially important if you have an order for supervised visitation for either parent.
You are entitled to school records. Family Code Section 3025 states: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the child’s custodial parent. You may want to bring this Code to the school’s attention if you are met with resistance in obtaining your child’s school records. See if you can be added to the e-mail list of important school events and updates.
Communication is essential, both with the other parent and with the school. It is the responsibility of both parents to keep themselves informed, and to inform the other parent. Keep communication non-accusatory and child-centered – this is not the time for clever remarks about the other parent. Remember, you are both raising a little person, and respectful, kind behavior toward the other parent during the school year is a gift to your child.
I touch upon the subject of school in more detail in my book that will be released in 2019, Child Custody and Visitation in California: Preparing for the Battle Ahead and Strategies for Winning the War. School is a big portion of your child’s life, and you can be involved. Your will and ability to be involved and supportive of your child’s education will be a major consideration in custody decisions.
-Shauna M. Albright, Managing and Founding Attorney
Albright Family Law Group
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