Back to School Child Custody Tips (and Mistakes!)…
“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything.” – Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing
It’s back to school! That’s certainly an exciting time for Committed Parents, Caring Relatives and, of course, our kids themselves. For those of us Co-Parenting in a Child Custody situation, it can also raise complicated questions and present the risk of easily avoided mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Seeking School Information or Records from the Other Side…
Typically, in a Child Custody order, both parents are awarded Joint Legal Custody, even if one parent has the final decision regarding educational matters. That Joint Legal Custody should grant you access to your child’s records directly from the school rather than trying to chase them down from the Other Side (unless you just love the drama).
Furthermore, and perhaps even without regard to your Child Custody order, (issued from a state court), a parent has independent rights under the Federal Code to access your child’s education information. It’s called FERPA. It stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. (helpful link here).
We would argue (and have argued) that a state court does not even have jurisdiction to limit your federal rights to access your child’s school records, and, in our experience, no judge has entered such a restriction.
– if there is a Child Custody order in place, make sure your child’s school has a copy of the order on file;
– know and meet regularly with your child’s teacher(s), principal(s) and guidance counselor;
– if you obtain records from your child’s school email scanned copies to the Other Side as a courtesy.
Mistake #2 – Expecting the Other Side to Follow Your House Rules…
At your house, Tommy has to finish his homework before he plays Fortnite. At the Other Side’s house, Tommy is allowed to play Fortnite for an hour (or more!) before he buckles down to his studies.
Your house, your rules — Other Side’s house, Other Side’s rules. (and that’s exactly what you should tell your child if he/she asks about the different policies.
You couldn’t get the Other Side to “act right” when you guys were together, no? You think the Other Side is going to live by your rules now? Would you want the Other Side controlling how you run your house?
This is just one of those hard things about Child Custody. There’s a reason parents raising a child together is optimal. This is a “hand you’ve been dealt” thing, and you can either make the best of it or give needless energy to the stress and anxiety of things and people you can’t control.
– keep an eye on attendance, tardies and grades (See Mistake #1 above) – if you’ve got an issue with how the Other Side runs their household there is not much you can call attention to unless that reflects itself in measurable performance.
– talk to your child about the principle behind the policies at your home – “Wouldn’t it be better if you got your homework done first so you could relax and dial into Fortnite?”
– steal my line – “I know it’s your house and it’s your rules, but would you consider making Tommy finish his homework and show it to you before letting him play Fortnite? Thanks for your consideration of this issue.”
Mistake #3 – Thinking Poor Grades or Behavior is the Other Side’s Fault…
People, generally, are endlessly complicated and kids, by adding immaturity and inconsistency into the mix, are even moreso. It will be totally natural and very tempting to think that without the Other Side’s influence or neglect that your kiddo would be Harvard bound, that every missed assignment or detention is a direct result of the Other Side’s fitness as a parent. But here’s a secret we learned when we used to do more Juvenile Criminal Defense work…
Kids can be little punks.
Kids get hurt. Kids get in trouble. Kids under-prepare for tests. Certainly, there are appropriate reactions from parents in these circumstances and arguably less appropriate ones. Within reason, though, go back to Mistake #2 and tell kiddo to just wait until he/she gets back to your house and see what life is like for kids that get detention.
– Nip excuses in the bud! – remind children of an appropriate age that blaming others for things the children have control over will not be tolerated (Kids learn all too quickly that blaming the Other Side will get him/her off the hook)
– Your kiddo will know if you’re staying in touch and up to date on their records and performance (see tips to Mistake #1) – remind them that there are consequences in your home for the behavior and performance
Bottom Line – Control what you can – Access all the information you can – Respect the Other Side’s boundaries and, as importantly, your own.
If you are wondering if any issues you are experiencing are serious enough to warrant legal action, please don’t hesitate to book a consultation online at www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/.
Otherwise, have a great 2019-2020 School Year!
This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation. If you would like to speak more about how you, as a Committed Parent or Caring Relative, can be more effective in your Child Custody case, please visit www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/ to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices. ~SW, Foxtrot