Summer is winding down and many schools are in a back in session as early as next week. If you are exercising a parenting plan with your child or children, that means your summer time sharing schedule is ending and your school year time sharing will begin. This often creates several problems for parents. Over the summer parents do not have to address the difficulties that the school year presents. Below are some of the problems I often see resulting from children going back to school and how to address them.
In contested parenting cases, the child’s school and school related activities is often a hot topic. Who takes the child to school? Who picks the child up from school? Who attends parent teacher conferences? Who does homework with the child? Who attends the sporting events, recitals, concerts, etc…? Often times the child’s teacher’s will be required to testify on these topics. In Florida we do not have the designation of primary or secondary parent. Under Florida law, there are two parents who will have a parenting plan established which sets forth a time sharing schedule for the child or children. Florida Statute 61.13 requires that when developing a parenting plan a designation of which parent will be responsible for school-related matters including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration be addressed. The parents can share the responsibility for forms and school related matters but only one parent’s address can be used for a school-boundary determination. Make sure an address is being used that is in the child’s best interests and is most beneficial to the child’s education experience.
Because their is no primary or secondary parent under Florida law, both parents have equal access to school forms, report cards, and can communicate with the child’s teachers. When I served as a Magistrate I often heard a parent say that they do not receive any information from the school, including report cards. When I asked why not, they blamed the other parent for not providing it to them. While there is a responsibility for parents to share information, it is not a legitimate excuse. Call the school, make sure you are on all the school forms for the child including the emergency contact forms. Request to be notified of all field trips. You are a parent, make sure the school knows it. Engage your child’s teacher early. Make sure she knows you are involved with your child’s education. Classrooms offer a wealth of information for parents online. Confirm you are set up to receive the informaiton. Doing so allows you to show that you are engaged with your child’s education and will assist you if face a Petition to Modify Parenting.
The return to school also creates more expenses for the child. Expenses such as books, school fees, uniforms, field trips, enrollment in school activities, even lunch money. The basic rule of thumb is when the child is in your care, you pay for the child’s expenses such as lunch; which is actually the basis for a lot of litigation. It is best practice for parents to divide other expenses such as uniforms, tuition, books, or field trips independent of child support.
I can go on and on about the parenting difficulties that arise when children return to school. Just try to remember to keep your child first. A positive education experience in invaluable to your child. Their involvement in extracurricular activities can teach valuable life lessons and help develop extraorindary skills such as playing a musical insrument. Do not allow the difference with your child’s parent stifle your child’s development.
If you are having difficulties with parenting issues that have arisen, or if you are facing an action to modify your parenting schedule, contact Andrew Bokan at 239-822-9370 and we can fill you in on what you are facing.
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