Back-to-school season can be very chaotic and challenging. School supplies need to be purchased, back-to-school wardrobes need to be ready, backpacks need to be full, lunches need to be made and extra-curricular activities need to be selected. Being separated or divorced from your child(ren)’s other parent can make this time even more challenging. Here are some reminders and tips to help you during this year’s back-to-school season.
Back-to-School Tips for Divorced and Separated Parents
1. Review your Allocation Judgment.
Many allocation judgments have a provision that indicates that the allocation judgment will be reviewed on annual basis. Sometimes there are mediation clauses or parenting coordinators who are appointed to assist with any modifications and some allocation judgments may even indicate that they can be modified by the parties’ written agreement. Back-to-school season is a good time to take a fresh look at the document to make sure that the schedule and parenting time provisions make sense.
For example, perhaps you now know that one of your children needs tutoring but there is nothing in your allocation judgment or marital settlement agreement or other financial order which indicates who will pay for it and who will select the tutor. Or, perhaps your order was entered when your child was a toddler and there are no provisions regarding how extra-curricular activities will be selected and paid for since it wasn’t an issue when you were in litigation. Perhaps you think it is time for your child to have a cell phone and the other parent doesn’t agree to it, or you are confused about if you are obligated to pay for one. Children grow older quickly, and things change.
Allocation Judgments can become stale. School start and end times change, people’s employment and work hours have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important to ensure that the allocation judgment and other court orders are current and up to date.
2. Be Sure to Follow Procedures in Your Orders for Enrollment in Extra-Curricular Activities, After-School Care, Before-School Care, etc.
Children are EXPENSIVE! If you have another parent who is helping foot the bill for extra-curricular activities or childcare, be sure that you are following the proper procedures set forth in your orders. For example, if your allocation judgment indicates that agreed-upon extra-curricular activities are to be shared by the parties, you should ensure you have the other party’s agreement in writing, via email, text, Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents message. That way if they ever later try to say they didn’t agree and refuse to reimburse, there is a paper trail. The same thing goes for child care – if it has to be agreed upon, make sure you have it in writing that it was, in fact, agreed upon, so that you aren’t stuck footing the whole bill on a technicality.
If you or your spouse contemplating divorce in Illinois, please visit our Chicago Divorce Attorney services page to learn more how we can help you and your family more forward.
3. Go through the School Year Calendar – Including Holidays and School Breaks.
If your Allocation Judgment or court order provides that you are to use a shared calendar, such as the one in Our Family Wizard, now is a good time to go through it and put in all days off of school, holidays, early releases, recital dates, back to school doctor’s appointments and checkups, tournament dates, ACT test dates, and anything else you can think of that will be an important date during the school year. It is also a good idea to go through your allocation judgment and outline what everyone’s school break days will be, which holidays are each parent’s for the year, and confirm the drop-off/pick-up dates, times and locations so that everyone is on the same page. This also makes it a breeze to plan for vacations, knowing that you can book flights and hotels without worrying that someone will have a concern about which date is allocated to them or an exchange time or location.
Back-to-school season is stressful for Chicago parents, but as mentioned above, it is a good time to refer back to your court orders and refresh them as needed. We are happy to help clients revisit portions of their orders that no longer work!