Co-parenting can be tough when dealing with a difficult spouse. See our blog on Dealing with a Difficult Co-Parent. These problems, however, tend to escalate when the children start school, and now you are not only dealing with you and your spouse’s schedules but the school calendar and extracurricular activities as well. There are a few primary topic areas you should be aware of when your child takes this next step in life.
Keeping up with the School Calendar
The school calendar affects many aspects of visitation such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, and summer holidays. Many of these visitation periods either begin or end based on “when the child’s school resumes.” Additionally, if one parent has weekend visitation, the weekends are extended on the Friday or Monday the children have off from school. It’s important to review the school calendar so that you can proactively discuss these dates with your co-parent. Nothing creates more tension than when a parent learns last minute that their visitation is shorter than they thought, even if the oversight is their fault.
Another common misconception is that if a child is enrolled in daycare, the parents should follow the daycare’s schedule. This is incorrect, and the Texas Family Code even addresses this exact situation in Tex. Fam. Code § 153.3101 where it states, “school” is the elementary or secondary school in which the child is enrolled or, if the child is not registered in an elementary or secondary school, the public school district in which the child primarily resides. As a result, the children attending daycare will follow the schedule of the public school in the district they reside – not the daycare they attend.
In most visitation schedules, parents will not see much of one another during exchanges because the pickups and drop-offs occur primarily at the school. This becomes important because when the children are too young to be in school, possession orders typically require exchanges to occur at a specific time (i.e., 6:00 p.m.). Because school start times and extra-curricular activities can change all of the time, it is essential that parents communicate openly about these times to prevent confusion and, inevitably, tension.
With progression into middle and high school, comes children getting involved in sports, band, academic activities, school clubs, and other activities that bring with them all sorts of different schedules, expenses, and requirements. Many parents do not consider how these activities will affect their visitation or pocketbooks.
Unless the parties specifically ask for it, standard possession orders will not typically ‘order’ or ‘demand’ that parents take their kids to activities outside of normal school. If this is a concern because of your co-parent’s previous behavior, you should address this in your divorce or custody papers. In this same light, parents can attempt to limit the number and frequency of activities the other parent enrolls the children in if this has historically interfered with the complaining parent’s visitation. It is important to note, however, that even if one parent is not directly ordered to take the children to and from their extracurriculars, failure to do so on a regular basis can provide grounds for the court to alter visitation in favor of the committed parent.
The cost of these activities is also a familiar source of contention for parents. Although one parent typically pays child support, this monthly stipend usually does not come close to covering ordinary childcare expenses plus extracurricular costs. Despite this issue, there is no requirement that the parents contribute to these expenses on top of child support. It is true that some orders will address this and have one parent pay child support expenses and also contribute to half of the expenses incurred for all activities, but these arrangements are the exception and not the rule.
When dealing with co-parenting around school and extracurriculars, the same principles in normal co-parenting situations still apply . . . There are just more distractions and obstacles to overcome once school comes into play. That is why communication and planning are essential to avoid unnecessary tension and conflict amongst parents and the children. Between this article and our post on Dealing with a Difficult Co-Parent, you should be able to diffuse many of the common problems parents have on the day to day issues. We are here to answer any questions about the information in this article and help provide you a resource for navigating these natural progressions in your children’s lives.
For more information on co-parenting, make sure to check out our previous blog post here: Dealing with a Difficult Co-Parent. If you have any concerns or questions, give us a call at 214-494-9916.