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Handling “back to school” as a divorced parent

Back-to-school season is stressful for parents as well as kids, but when you’re recently divorced, the challenges can be amplified. How will you split the cost of school supplies? Who will go shopping for them? Will both of you accompany the kids to the bus stop or drive them to school?

The back-to-school transition is a big one. You and your former spouse can work together by agreeing on bedtime and homework routines before the first day of school, addressing expenses, and meeting with your children’s teachers. Below are some tips to get you started.

1. Share the cost of supplies

You know from previous years that school supplies can cost a small fortune. If you have older kids who are expected to do their schoolwork on a computer, then the financial stress can increase, especially if their current laptop is getting older and doesn’t support the latest software.

To lessen the burden, talk to your ex about dividing purchasing responsibilities. Maybe he can buy the lunch boxes and backpacks while you cover the notebooks, pens, and pencils. If electronics are involved, then one of you can purchase the equipment while the other pays half. Just make sure that they agree before you hand over your credit card.

2. Create matching routines

You and your ex will not live under identical circumstances, but you can agree on some routines so that your children know what to expect no matter whose roof they happen to be under. This includes:

  • What time they get up for school and go to bed at night
  • When they must do homework
  • The consequences if they ignore their schoolwork

When the routines are similar in both households, the kids will understand what’s expected on a school night and not say something like, “Mom lets us stay up later!”

3. Share a calendar

An online resource like Google Calendar will make it easier for both parents to share information about things like home economics project deadlines, soccer practice, and when the kids need money for pizza day. Even if you can’t or don’t talk every day, you and your ex can stay on the same page.

4. Reach out to the school

Your children’s teachers can be more supportive if they know about the recent divorce. Arrange for you and your ex to meet with them before the first day of school. You can provide an overview of who will pick the kids up and drop them off on which days. This information can also help the teachers understand and handle any emotional situations that may come up.

5. Create boundaries if you need them

If you and your ex had a difficult divorce that makes it hard to present a united front at the school, then ask if the teachers can schedule separate parent-teacher conferences. Most schools will be happy to accommodate.

The first day of school after divorce is always greeted with trepidation, but when you prepare, it can go more smoothly and establish a routine you can follow for years to come.

Jayson Lutzky is an experienced New York family court and divorce lawyer. He offers free in office initial consultations in his Bronx office. Mr. Lutzky regularly appears in court, assisting clients in a wide variety of child custody, visitation and support matters. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment or visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com/Divorce to learn more.

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