Back-to-school season brings many emotions. Excitement, nervousness, and dread for some. If you are a single parent of a minor child this time of year it may also bring about conflict and confrontation with the other parent. Keep the following tips in mind as you enter this school year and try to resolve small issues before they multiply and you wind up in a courtroom.
TALK IT OUT!
Try to get along. It sounds elementary and it is certainly easier said than done, but this simple piece of advice is often forgotten. Communication is key. An alarming number of custodial disputes arise due to the parents’ failure to effectively communicate. If you want to sign your daughter up for soccer lessons, talk to the other parent. If you want to get your son a math tutor, talk to the other parent. Custody cases frequently escalate due to one party feeling that the other party is exerting too much control or overstepping boundaries. Avoid letting text or emails escalate into larger issues. It is also easier to simply make that phone call and speak in rational terms to calm matters down.
If parents with joint legal custody are deadlocked as to a day-to-day decision regarding their child, the issue can be brought before a judge for a final determination. Custody court should be reserved for the most contentious, difficult cases. Our judges will expect parents to be able to compromise and work minor issues out without court intervention.
FALL INTO A ROUTINE
It’s common for one parent to take on the role of disciplinarian while the other is more laid back. This frequently leads to complaints about the child staying up too late and being tired at school, not having homework finished, not eating healthy foods, and rejecting the rules of the stricter household. Help your child succeed by establishing a routine that is consistent in each parent’s household and following it. Ensure that your child’s homework is done each night. Talk to the other parent to determine an age-appropriate bedtime – and stick to it. Enforce rules uniformly. When parents fail to work together on reasonable methods of child rearing, they essentially release control of the child raising process to the child. No one wins in that scenario.
ACCESS TO SCHOOL RECORDS
N.C.G.S. §50-13.2(b) states that “absent an order of the court to the contrary, each parent shall have equal access to the records of the minor child involving the health, education, and welfare of the child.” Be sure that your child’s school has a copy of your most recent custody order. Review the order with your child’s teacher and administrators to ensure that everyone understands each parent’s rights and obligations regarding the child’s education.
CLOTHES, SCHOOL SUPPLIES, AND SPORTS EQUIPMENT
A frequent point of tension is the children taking back-to-school items purchased by one parent going to the other parent’s home and never returning (i.e. clothing, school supplies, sports equipment, etc.). If financially feasible, each parent should purchase sufficient clothing and supplies to allow the child to have full sets at each parent’s house. This avoids conflict between the parents and also minimizes the amount of packing the child has to do when rotating between the homes.
LEAVE THE CHILDREN OUT OF IT
Don’t send messages to the other parent through your children. Even something as simple as a rescheduled appointment time should be communicated directly between parents. It should go without saying, but absolutely do not speak negatively about the other parent to the children. It’s detrimental to the children and will come back to bite you if you find yourself in court. In the long run, alienating a child from a parent will also come back to haunt the parent who caused the alienation because at some point in his or her life, the child will realize that he or she was manipulated and a true resentment can come to bear.
Three ingredients to successful co-parenting are communication, compromise and respect. The process can be tough, but few things are more important than working together to ensure that your child’s education is successful. Custodial decisions should be made with the child’s best interests in mind and nothing else. Face and resolve conflicts as they arise. Don’t shove problems under a rug and expect them to resolve themselves. Open and honest communication will lead to a more successful co-parenting relationship.
Call (704) 457-1073 today to reach our Mooresville family law firm. Make sure that you understand your legal rights, and start discussing your legal options.