As we head into the home stretch of summer before school begins again in Utica next month, it's a good idea for divorced parents to review their school year co-parenting schedule.
This is relevant because kids go through a lot of changes in the three months that they are out for summer vacation. Not only do they seem to grow in leaps and bounds, but as they mature, their interests change as well.
Review your expectations for this year's parenting plan
As children change, their interest and participation in school clubs, team sports and extracurricular activities waxes and wanes. Your little tomboy who played co-ed soccer and softball may surprise you by trying out for cheerleading or show a budding interest in theater. Both parents must be able to work together to ensure that a workable schedule evolves to ferry the kids to games, pick them up from practices and embraces their expanding repertoire of interests.
Beware of academic stumbling blocks
Kids transitioning from middle school to junior high sometimes get hung up on the advanced concepts of subjects in which they formerly excelled. For instance, the emergence of algebraic theory has sent more than one honor roll student tumbling.
If you struggled with advanced mathematical theorems all through school, you are probably not going to be the best help when your own child is falling behind. But if your ex was a math whiz in school, he or she is the perfect source of advice to turn to when questions arise.
Therefore, it may be in your child's best interest to restructure your custody schedule to allow him or her to spend an extra night or two during the week with the parent who is best equipped to assist with math assignments and prep for tests.
Beware of activities creeping into designated parenting time
Parenting plans should reflect the current status of your child's changing needs. Parents of kids who participate in multiple activities and sports must still carve out time for their children to spend with the non-custodial parent.
If Wednesday night dinner with Dad is now a hurriedly gobbled fast food burger eaten in the car on the way home from football practice, concessions may need to be made. Maybe Dad could instead arrange to pick up his son early on the morning of game day to share a hearty breakfast as well as a pep talk for success later that day on the field.
Cooperate without ceding your rights to time with the kids
Successful co-parenting involves cooperation and often compromise, but beware of becoming a door mat who agrees to less and less time with your own offspring. If you agree to switch weekends and your ex winds up with extra parenting time on a regular basis, be aware that your ex could twist that to the court and make it appear that you are uninterested or apathetic about pursuing your parenting time.
Ultimately, this could work against you and even affect the amount of child support paid or received. Make sure that you get any changes in writing, either by emails or text messages that can be archived and accessed later when needed.
The two of you may wind up back in court filing an updated version of your parenting plan. Always loop your family law attorney in on any proposed changes to the custody status quo so that he or she can offer advice and guidance.