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Handling Challenges with Parental Responsibility During the School Season


Published on August 14th, 2020

The return of the school season can often be an exasperating time for those with shared parental responsibilities. Co-parents who enter into this season unprepared may frequently find themselves at odds with each other over the allocation of added expenses, travel requirements, and other parental obligations. Add to these challenges our communities being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it makes for a perfect storm of unprecedented family territory.

That being said, this school season does not have to be laden with turmoil. We understand first-hand the painful disputes can arise; that is why our team of Chicago divorce and family lawyers is sharing a few co-parenting tips to minimize the conflict and stress in order to foster a supportive back-to-school environment for children this year.

Common Parental Responsibility Challenges that Surface During the Back to School Season

The determination of who makes the important decisions concerning the upbringing of a child is now known in Illinois as “allocation of parental responsibilities” (formerly known as “custody”) – which includes issues relating to parenting time with the minor children. Confrontation over parental responsibilities and parenting time often surfaces during the school season because of the many adjustments that are needed to accommodate schedules and expenses.

Whether children are returning to school this season in person or they are attending virtually through e-learning, there are some common challenges between co-parents that may ensue, including but not limited to:

  • Deciding who will complete school forms and cover the costs of associated fees, such as enrollment;
  • Deciding who will manage and pay for back-to-school shopping and extracurricular activities;
  • Disagreements on the best way to ensure a child’s safety returning to school during COVID-19;
  • Deciding who will attend school events and conferences;
  • Arranging which parent will complete school drop-offs and pickups; and
  • Determining how each parent will maintain communications regarding their child’s progress in school, along with communications with a child’s teacher or teachers.

The questions can seem daunting and unending without an amicable parenting agreement and proactive planning. Moreover, if the situation cannot be resolved peacefully, a child’s school performance can deteriorate greatly, a consequence that certainly no parent wants to occur.

Help yourself and your children avoid these unnecessary dilemmas by keeping the below tips in mind.

Co-Parenting Tips for Curtailing Back to School Challenges

Build Consistency and Structure into Parenting Agreements

Work with an expert family law attorney at Davis Friedman to create your parenting agreement. In an ideal scenario, a simple and consistent schedule can assist the children in their back-to-school experience and also assist the parents with the transition. Parents and children should know where the child will be staying every night and who will be responsible for drop-off/pick-up from school (or in the case of e-learning, who will facilitate this process for them). Unless unforeseen circumstances arise, parents should make all necessary efforts to remain committed to this schedule.

At the return of the school year, co-parents may want to consider reviewing the terms of their parenting agreement. This way, everyone has clarity in their intentions, expectations, and responsibilities. The attorneys at Davis Friedman can assist in such a review to help transition you and your family into the 2020-2021 school year.

Keep Flexibility in Mind

Although consistency is recommended, co-parents must be open to flexibility necessitated by COVID-19 or the given parents/children’s specific schedule and needs. The entire country is still navigating this situation one day at a time, and the unfortunate reality is that no one can predict what changes may come about. Showing compassion and flexibility while working through unexpected changes with a co-parent is crucial to a child’s comfortability level, well-being, and safety.

Co-parents are encouraged, if possible, to have a sincere conversation to ascertain each other’s preferences regarding their child’s safety during COVID-19. This might include sharing opinions on PPE (personal protective equipment), sanitation and hygiene practices, participation in extracurricular activities, and spending time with third parties not included in the immediate family or circle that has been adopted during the conditions of COVID-19.

Plan Schedules in Advance

The school season typically brings with it an overabundance of events. Schools provide an academic calendar listing the year’s conferences, holiday breaks, and special events. Co-parents can use this to plan ahead for the school year and to help determine who will be attending which parent-required events. Remember that even virtual events will often mandate parental participation. If any rescheduling or adjustments need to be made to parenting time or availability, this can be done beforehand to avoid last minute disagreements or the child being put in an uncomfortable situation.

If children participate in sports or extracurricular activities, it is recommended to include these into the planning as well. Co-parents should invest in a shared calendar that can house important dates, schedule changes, and all school-related activities.

Agree on Cost Distribution

Either in the classroom or online, school will inevitably bring with it added expenditures. It is the responsibility of the parents to work towards a reasonable solution on how to divide these expenditures, and a successful parenting agreement will have cost-sharing worked into the details. Often, sharing the costs of back to school expenditures is the safest way to avoid grievances.

If you find that your parenting agreement is lacking this specific detail, you and the other parent are unable to agree, or you simply want to discuss the specific allocation in your agreement, contact one of our top-rated and award-winning attorneys for guidance.

Collaborate with Schools and Teachers

Potential disagreements can be avoided when co-parents are in communication with the child’s school and teachers – versus having to rely on the other parent to convey a message or information third-hand. In the situation where you and the co-parent have shared responsibilities, a child’s school should have both parents’ contact information and be willing to provide each parent with any school documentation pertaining to the student or their curriculum. This method also proves to be helpful with co-parenting communication, as both parents are kept aware of their child’s progress and can work together to address any concerns or future steps.

Early and open communication between co-parents can be the key factor in the success of all of this. However, cooperating with your child’s other parent isn’t always easy or feasible.

Contact Davis Friedman for Assistance with Parental Responsibility Disputes

If you find broaching the topic of this school season with your child’s other parent to be overwhelming, or you simply want some guidance in this regard, it is best to turn to the experts for assistance. Having a compassionate stance on providing the best solution for all parties involved, our attorneys work closely with you to create a successful parenting agreement, or to assist you in the interpretation or modification of a current parenting agreement/judgment. In addition, if necessary, as skilled strategists and expert negotiators we are committed to providing our clients with the highest-quality representation should your matter unfortunately have to proceed to the litigation stage.

If you are seeking legal counsel regarding a case involving “allocation of parental responsibilities” (formerly known as “custody”), please contact our firm for a consultation.

Contact our Chicago family law firm today for an initial meeting.

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