Back to School: Tips for Divorced Parents (August 2023 Updates)

The start of each academic year presents unique challenges for divorced parents, particularly in the ongoing economic instability. This article aims to provide practical advice and strategies to help divorced parents successfully navigate co-parenting amidst these uncertainties, focusing on the best interest of their children.

Key to this process is the proactive resolution of issues around children’s education, extracurricular activities, and parenting time. Divorced parents are encouraged to rely on their conflict resolution abilities, minimizing the stress and expense of court involvement. Whether independently or with the assistance of professional counsel or alternative dispute resolution, the focus should be on creating an amicable environment conducive to the child’s development.

For parents who have implemented platforms such as Talking Parents or Our Family Wizard, these tools can greatly enhance communication and coordination. A shared calendar, for instance, can streamline logistics, from managing transportation to assigning supervision of schoolwork. Importantly, it can also help avert potential misunderstandings or manipulative behavior by children trying to play one parent against the other.

When considering the cost of children’s extracurricular activities, parents must engage in a delicate balancing act. On one hand, these activities provide enrichment for children, but on the other, they may represent an additional financial strain. One parent may advocate more strongly for continuation or discontinuation of these activities. Regardless of the decision, it’s essential to aim for minimal disruption in the child’s routine, albeit with the understanding that certain activities may no longer be feasible due to financial constraints.
With careful planning and open communication, co-parenting can indeed be effective, even under challenging circumstances. Remember that the child’s best interests are always the priority. Through fostering collaboration and understanding, parents can create a nurturing environment for their children, even after divorce.

Parents arguing about these things can make kids anxious and stressed, which can hurt their school performance. Because of the expense and stress associated with court hearings, parents should be willing to compromise with each other. For example, parents might not be able to continue to pay for three extracurricular activities, but perhaps the parents could find a way to continue to pay for one. Small children will not be able to understand budget constraints, but they are probably able to tell their parents which activities they prefer. Older children may feel empowered if their parents allow them to participate in these decisions. Parents should avoid burdening their children with adult worries and be thoughtful about the information they share.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Options

Parents should agree on parenting time, school choice, and extracurricular activities, but if they cannot, they may be at an impasse. In that situation, a decision-maker or arbitrator may provide the means to resolve the dispute. A decision-maker/arbitrator is an individual appointed to step in and decide after each party presents his or her point of view. The process for sharing perspectives can vary from informal discussions to a formal presentation of evidence. One major benefit of using a decision-maker/arbitrator is that the process is usually must faster than going through the court. Parties usually share costs and it is often cheaper than going to court, especially if both have lawyers. In general, both parents must allow a decision-maker/ arbitrator to make the final decision in a dispute. Courts do not order parties to defer to a decision-maker/ arbitrator over a party’s objection.

Parties should strongly consider getting the opinion of an attorney about whether arbitration is the best choice in a particular case. The cost of attorney’s fees is often lower than the cost of trying to fix a mistake made in the absence of expert advice. In some circumstances, a decision-maker/ arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Resolving Parenting Disputes through the Courts

In the alternative, parties can try resolve the issue through the Court by filing a motion. Colorado courts have measures in place to help parties who do not have attorneys, but if a party can afford an attorney, hiring an attorney is the safest choice. An experienced attorney knows how to keep a client’s case moving and can advise a client how the court is likely to rule on the client’s case. Think twice before proceeding in court without an attorney because depending on the circumstances, if your case doesn’t go as you planned, getting a different ruling might be impossible.

Getting Along for the Sake of the Children

A parent who has sole decision-making authority may decide where a child will attend school, but decisions regarding attendance or absences based on illness, doctor’s appointments, etc. are more likely to be considered day-to-day decisions which do not require the consent of the other party, regardless of the allocation of major decision-making authority. In any case, , the best approach is for parents to get on the same page. If that is not possible, this is a time to pick battles. Parents should attempt to settle their differences in a way that best serves their child. If disputes are part of a longer pattern of issues, a parent should keep a record or journal of these issues with dates and a concise explanation of the issues. This can then be used later if the need arises.

Parents who worry about the future are not alone, as these are uncertain times for everyone. Anxiety and fear often accompany uncertainty. Anxiety and fear can often lead to emotional responses that might not otherwise be expressed. Despite conflicts, families should come together to support their children both financially and emotionally. Compromise is almost always the best option to resolve disputes in families, now more than ever.

Our experienced attorneys can help you with parenting conflicts and protect your future and your child’s future.