Who Is Responsible for School-Related Child Issues After Divorce
In 2016, the marriage rate was 6.9 per 1,000 individuals, and the divorce rate was 3.2 per 1,000 people. Overall, about 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and the rate is higher for second and subsequent marriages. Many of those divorces include households with young children who attend school, leaving parents with some tough choices regarding who will be responsible for handling school-related activities.
Deciding on a School District
If you and your ex-spouse both reside in the same school district, you may still need to decide on whose address to use as the primary address for your child. If one parent lives in a much better school district, you may have to work out the residency in your custody arrangement. This could be the situation if you share custody and parenting responsibilities. If one parent has primary custody, then that parent’s address is typically the one used for school purposes. The address is important because school district borders may vary based on which side of the street you live on.
Attendance at School Functions
When working with your divorce mediation lawyer, many of the scheduling issues between you and your ex-spouse will be negotiated as a part of the child custody arrangement. However, some issues may need to be directly specified in the arrangements. Attendance at school functions is one of those topics. Schools encourage parents to attend special events such as open houses and plays. If you do not want to attend the events simultaneously, work out an arrangement based on whom the child is with on the day of the event. You could also work out something different, such as an arrangement where one parent goes to daytime functions and another goes to evening functions.
Parent and Teacher Conferences
Parent and teacher conferences are an important part of the educational process. They allow you to find out how your child is doing socially, academically and functionally in the school environment. If you have a shared custody arrangement, consider going to a conference together or arranging separate times to both meet with your child’s teacher. This is especially important if your child stays with you and your ex-spouse during the school year.
Child Discipline Problems at School
You will also need to decide on who will be the point of contact if your child has a discipline problem at school. In this situation, you might have meetings with the school’s counselor, principal and teacher. Both parents may be asked to attend. If you and your ex-spouse prefer, you can arrange so that just one of you will handle these situations if they arise.
Pickup and Drop-Off Responsibilities
Part of your child custody arrangement may include who is responsible for getting your child to and from school each day. If you share custody and switch off different days of the week, this information will need to be provided to the school. If your child will ride the bus and use different school bus routes and stops based on whose house they are going to that day, this information must also be communicated to the school.
Emergencies and Unusual Events
You also need to have a plan with your ex-spouse about how to handle emergencies and unusual events. For example, if your child gets sick during the school day, you will need to know in advance who will pick up the child at school. This might be based on work schedules or which parent is caring for the child that day. You should have a plan in place for situations such as weather hazards that result in school closures, delays or early dismissals. Have a plan for handling school lockdowns and emergency building closures that are due to utility disruptions or widespread illness.
Joanne Kleiner is a skilled divorce mediation lawyer who can help you work through all of these issues. To schedule a consultation, contact us at Joanne Kleiner & Associates by phone at (215) 886-1266. You can also visit our law office in Jenkintown in person to make an appointment.