Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Making a parenting plan work during the school year

When two parents in Virginia divorce, they will need to develop a parenting plan. This plan will address child custody and visitation. It is important that the child is able to form a strong bond with each parent. Divorce can be difficult for a child, so if the child's parents reach an agreement on how to share time with the child, it can provide the child with some much-needed stability.

However, a parenting plan should not be so complicated that it makes the child's transition from one household to the other unnecessarily difficult. Having the child spend blocks of time with each parent may be an option. Also, transitions between households should be organized. It is important that the child has the appropriate school supplies, clothing and other items they'll need while in each parent's care.

When parents make a parenting plan, they should also make sure they are on the same page when it comes to their child's education. They should agree to specific topics such as what their child can wear to school, when the child will do their homework, how they will handle attending school events, who will pay for tuition and supplies and how they will communicate with their child's teachers. This can extend to making agreements about extracurricular activities as well. When parents are consistent and cooperate, it can help the child thrive.

Parents can draft a parenting plan, but it won't be useful if it is not followed. Parents need to cooperate with one another. This includes keeping the lines of communication open, so they each know what's going on in their child's life. It may help for both parents to attend parent-teacher conferences, receive classroom handouts or even copies of their child's report cards. This way, both parents have an idea of how their child is doing academically.

In Virginia, barring circumstances such as abuse, both parents have a right to be involved in their child's life. The standard that should be used when developing a parenting plan or making any other decisions regarding the child is the "best interests of the child." Courts will turn to this standard when making custody decisions. Courts will also consider other factors such as the child's preference and the child's development, physically, emotionally and academically. In this way, decisions can be made that further the child's ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, even after the parents' divorce.

Source: Great! Schools, "Kids, divorce, and school success," March 18, 2016

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