The start of the school year can cause a lot of commotion for newly divorced or separated parents. Two things that seem to cause the most stress are a lack of communication between the parents, and a lack of understanding of what shared parental responsibility means. Shared parental responsibility, when it comes to education means that both parents have equal decision making authority with regard to the child’s education, and equal access to school records. With that in mind, here are three tips for the recently separated parent:
1. Get a Copy of the School Calendar.
It’s a common misconception that the parent who has the children for the majority of the time has the obligation to provide the other parent with all information concerning the child’s education. Shared Parental Responsibility means that each parent has the authority to obtain all information from the school – it does not put the burden on one spouse or the other to collect everything and distribute it to the other parent. Get a copy of the school calendar so that you can keep up with the important events as they occur. This will also clue you in on when report cards come out so that you can make arrangements to get a copy.
2. Volunteer! Schools are always looking for volunteers to help in classrooms, with special events and with extra curricular activities. Volunteering is a great way to spend more time with your child, and to get to know the adults that are teaching your child.
3. Communicate Through Email. Communication with the school and your former spouse is an important part of the education process. Most teachers and administrators are happy to communicate with parents through email, and it is simple to copy both parents so that neither is left out of the loop. But if you want to be included, you have to ask. Few teachers will seek out both parents or will know to do so, unless you tell them. Email is a great way for parents to discuss educational decisions with at least reduced emotion, and a paper trail. Stay away from baiting and personal attacks and stick to the issue at hand. Remember, if you can’t ultimately agree on something, a judge will likely review the emails and decide! When the judge is left to make decisions, they are often less than ideal for either parent.