WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HAVING A CHILD AT SCHOOL AND BEING A SEPARATED PARENT
Whether your child is starting preschool or primary school, navigating the school system as separated parents can be daunting. There may be a lot of uncertainty over who is responsible for what and who has to take action. Rachael Scharrer, Relationship and Life Change Counsellor and Separation Strategist, shares your back-to-school as separated parents cheat sheet. This cheat sheet highlights the common questions parents have about navigating the educational systems with greater ease.
UNIFORMS. There are two groups of separated parents and both versions are correct. You can choose whatever works for your and your child’s other parent. Either parents buy their own for their own days that they have care for the child or they can choose to share the uniforms. If your relationship with your child’s other parent is contentious, then it may be best for you to purchase your own uniforms and shoes.
SICK DAYS. Often the responsibility of a sick child falls to the parent that has the care of the child that day. This can be taxing for the working parent, especially if their child has an extended illness.
PICK UPS & AFTER-SCHOOL CARE. Communicate your parenting schedule (or preferably Parenting Orders when you have one) with the school. This can minimise any stress for your child and the school. Ensure that you have nominated in writing approved people that can pick up in your absence on your allocated parenting days. If you are unable to collect at the primary school pick-up time, it is your responsibility to either arrange someone else to collect your child or enrol them in after-school care. The cost of the after-school care will fall to the parent whose day of care it is to have the child.
ATTENDANCE AT SCHOOL EVENTS. Upon separation, both parents have rights to the child. Unless Orders have been created and lodged at court, both parents have the right to attend all school events. When you and your child’s other parent are at school together, it is ideal for both parents maintain civility and respect. If you create a scene, it can be more damaging to your child.
EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Extra-curricular activities are usually something parents discuss and agree together. Upon agreement of the activity, the organisation facilitating the activity and the scheduled day, parents will often come to an agreement about expenses. However, in some families, there is a hard and fast rule that you only enrol your child into extra-curriculars on your own days of care and you are similarly responsible for covering the cost of the activity. In the latter situation, the days that you have your child are the ones that you are responsible for the cost of the extra-curricular. It may be more helpful to assume that you are responsible unless an express agreement is made.
SCHOOL COMMUNICATION & SCHOOL REPORTS. It is each parent’s responsibility to inform the school of any changes to their details. This way, you can ensure that you get your own copy of the school newsletters, notices and school reports. Schools will distribute two copies of a school report (one to each parent at separate addresses) upon request.
GENERAL COMMUNICATION BETWEEN PARENTS. Your role as a parent is to ensure that your child remains as unaffected as possible throughout your separation and divorce. You can do this by keeping the lines of communication open between you and your child’s other parent. If your child needs additional assistance, needs to remember something for a particular day or has an assignment due, sharing with and reminding the other parent is a thoughtful gesture.
For many families, they may benefit from creating a Binding Child Maintenance Agreement (or Binding Child Support Agreement). It outlines the financial responsibility for each parent and can help to minimise any additional disagreements. You can create your own affordable Binding Child Support Agreement, through this link.
As a child with preschool or school-age children, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are getting the right information shared with you. It is also your responsibility to ensure that your child is equipped for school with the right materials, uniforms and lunch. If there are any areas that you are uncertain about or need further assistance, you need to make the right enquiries. Your enquiries may be with the school or your child’s other parent. Equally, if you need some support creating the right plans for your child with your child’s other parent, you can book a Strategy Session for additional clarity.