Co-parenting is never easy, but back-to-school is a particularly chaotic time. If you’re the parent with primary physical custody then it could be tempting to reduce your ex’s involvement just to keep things simple.
But unless you have both sole physical and sole legal custody, your ex has a right to be involved. And if you handle things correctly, having your ex involved could even be beneficial.
Be sure to read these tips if you are freshly divorced. Divorces tend to spike in the summer, which means many families will be dealing with these issues for the first time.
Ask your ex how involved he or she wants to be in back-to-school prep.
Some ex’s won’t want to deal with the chaos. Trying to push, nag, or cajole them into doing so won’t help.
For example, a recent Huffington Post article suggests splitting the cost of school supplies. But if your ex is paying child support, school supplies are exactly the sort of expense the child support is supposed to cover. Pushing for half-and-half involvement there might just anger and frustrate your ex.
But if your ex wants to be the one to take your child shopping for supplies and clothes there’s no good reason not to let them. It’s one more item to check off your list, and there’s a good chance he or she will just foot the bill without asking you to spend anything extra.
If your ex lives out of state then he or she may only want a picture of the first day, or an update call at the end of the first week. By taking the time to find out, and to provide these simple items, you make your child more comfortable and reduce any potential resentments on your ex’s part.
Get both bus routes.
This isn’t necessary if your ex lives too far away from your child’s school to take advantage of the bus routes. Your ex will have to drive your child to school when he or she stays over.
But if you both live close enough it’s wise to get the bus route for your ex’s address too. The school is only going to send one to the primary address by default, so you’ll have to call the transportation department to get the information.
But having it, and letting the school know what your co-parenting schedule looks like so they allow the student to board the alternate bus, can make life easier on both of you.
Update school information.
Some divorces are contentious enough that you might be very tempted to avoid putting your co-parent’s contact information on school forms.
But again, legally, if your ex has joint legal custody then he or she has the right to be involved in your child’s education. And there will probably be a day where you will want your ex to pick up your child. If you’re in the hospital it is a lot easier to send your child’s parent then it is to arrange for permission for a third party to pick up your child.
Besides, do you always want to be the only one who takes off of work when your child is sick?
Talk to your child’s teachers.
Your child’s teacher needs to be aware of the identity of any parent or step-parent who lives nearby so there are no surprises.
If your ex is interested and if it’s feasible, you might even want to have this conversation together. And you might want to attend parent-teacher conferences together, too.
Try to always keep the mindset that you and your co-parent are teaming up to do what’s best for your child, and that all of the other bad blood between you should fall by the wayside.
See also: How to Create a Solid Parenting Plan.
Use technology to improve communication.
Set up a shared Google Calendar to mark important dates or events. Create a group text chat, Slack chat, Skype chat, or Discord chat to talk about your child’s progress.
You can also do these things with some of the many co-parenting apps that are out there.
See also: How Technology Can Help You Co-Parent.
Keep your lawyer’s number handy.
Disputes may arise even when you make every effort to keep your ex in the loop and as involved as he or she wants to be. When they do, you or your ex might want to push the issue in court.
If that happens, you’ll want an experienced family lawyer by your side to help you navigate these hearings, and to help you ensure court orders don’t harm the quality of your child’s education.