Back to school challenges after a divorce

Divorce is, at its core, a legal procedure. In dissolves a marriage in Missouri, separating the property and debts of a couple. If you have children, it also contains the custody order or parenting plan that will govern the parent’s relationship with their children and with each other until those children reach the age of majority.

Divorce is also an emotional experience made all the more so by the presence of children. As a divorced parent, you have to deal with your emotional feelings toward your former spouse and with your children in your new relationship as a part-time single parent.

With students returning to school in the St. Louis area, you also have to deal with the institutional perspective of the schools, which is based often on the assumption that the children have two married parents.

Everything from parent conferences to report cards may be structured on that assumption. You may have to request duplicates of everything, although, with electronic distribution of information and other material, it is becoming easier.

You may have to decide other emotional items, like what you consider as a “family picture.” And you should inform your children’s teachers of your situation and if tensions from the divorce are affecting them.

You may also have challenges as children in a shared custody arrangement return to school and both parents have to cope with the demands of that schedule. This is where careful work with your attorney in the development of your parenting plan can be invaluable.

A detailed and thoughtful parenting plan will have allowed you to “think through” many of the complexities of parenting children after a divorce. Your custody schedule should be created with the school day in mind, including the need for before or after school care.

For instance, if a parent travels frequently for work, a custody schedule of alternating days may be unworkable. The parenting plan should also include how healthcare decisions are made and provide the school with complete information for contacting both parents. It should also allow decision making in critical situations where one parent may be unavailable.

The better a parenting plan is both well-conceived and flexible, the better the child and parents will be able to cope with the difficulties a school year is likely to send their way.

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