How to Survive Back to School as a Divorced Parent

ByAllison McFadden in Divorce, Family Law August 28th, 2019

It can seem like everything changes after a divorce or separation, and back to school is no exception.  If you are newly separated, this might be the first year you are not there to drop your kids off on the first day of school.  Or if you have recently moved as a result of the divorce, your kids might be nervous about starting at a new school.

Parents can do their best to ease their children’s confusion about which bus to ride home on which days, and can ease the tension with their ex by getting on the same page ahead of the new school year.  Here are some tips to ease your kid’s anxiety, ease the transition, and quell co-parenting disputes, while preparing for the new school year:

-          Coordinate to fill out the paperwork for the school.  Make sure everyone’s information is included, and go over the emergency contact forms and pick-up authorization lists to ensure that both parents have back-ups on their access days.

-          Work with your co-parent to ensure your kids are clear on how they are getting home each day – when are they being picked up, when are they walking home, when are they riding the bus (and which), etc.  Come up with an age appropriate system to remind them where they are going that afternoon.   

-          Loop in your children’s teachers, and other professionals who work with them at school.  Communication with their teachers, guidance counselors and others at the school is key, especially if your children are having difficulty with the divorce and the changes they are experiencing. 

-          Have a plan for unexpected early dismissals, sick days and weather delays.  Many custody agreements, or court orders, don’t spell out who is responsible for the kids during normal school hours, leading to confusion when unexpected circumstances arise.

-          Sign both parents up for any email lists, notification systems, and to have access to portals or other information sharing systems the school uses.  This can greatly decrease friction caused by difficulty in sharing information that has historically only gone home in a student’s backpack.   

-          Consider creating a shared family calendar through Google or using a specialized an app to coordinate scheduling.  There are lots of apps out there with a variety of different features – see which is best suited to your families’ needs.  Some popular options are My Family Wizard, Coparently and Cozi.

-          Divide and conquer the back to school shopping lists, splitting up the long list of supplies and playing to each parent’s strengths.  One parent can take the kids to the store for new shoes, while the other orders the binders and book bags on Amazon. 

-          Drop the kids off together on the first day if at all possible.  The most important thing is to ease this transition for them,  if at all possible – you want your kids to feel comfortable and supported – if at all possible do that by both parents being at school on the first day

-          When it is not possible for both parents to be there on the first day of school, talk to your children beforehand.  Let them know what will happen on the first day so they are prepared.  Make a plan for the other parent to be involved – set up a special FaceTime call in the morning, or have a special note waiting for the child at school.  And make sure to send a picture from the first day – these are the moments no parent should have to miss. 

Allison McFadden

As a Senior Counsel in the firm’s Family Law practice group, Allison McFadden focuses exclusively on protecting and enforcing the rights of spouses, parents and children involved in complex and emotional family law matters before courts in Montgomery County and throughout Maryland. Her practice covers every type of family law matter that impacts the lives of her clients, including the following:

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