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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

COVID-19, School, and Shared Parenting

The school year is coming fast, but things are still uncertain when it comes to what schooling will look like. Most schools are still trying to figure out how to manage a large number of students in the building while complying with new rules for social distancing and cleaning. Some schools are tossing around the idea of a hybrid model that would have students going to in-person classes 2-3 days a week and doing remote learning on the other days. Other schools are considering longer class days or year-round schooling so that they can accommodate small class sizes. 

If you have sole custody, what your child’s education looks like is up to you. In most cases, the sole custodian has full decision-making permissions when it comes to educational issues, but if you have shared parenting, this is something you will need to discuss with the other parent.

There’s the possibility that you both might choose not to have your children return to public schools in the fall. And even if you are planning on having your child return to traditional public school, there may need to be some changes to what that looks like on the home front depending on how the district decides to move forward. It may be helpful to start talking to the other parent about possible scenarios and solutions so you’re prepared to move forward when decisions are made. For example, if your school chooses to move to the hybrid model, maybe one of you has a more flexible job and can work from home on the days your child isn’t at school. No matter what you decide or how you choose to handle things, it's important to stay flexible as changes are likely if not inevitable as the school year progresses.

If reaching such an agreement is not an option, you must follow the terms in your agreement. This may be easier said than done. But, now is not the time to make up your own rules. Despite the unusual circumstances, you should continue to follow court orders and custody agreements. These agreements exist to prevent haggling over details. Most custody agreements, for example, mandate that custody agreements should remain in force as though school is in session, even if they are closed. 

If you are still at odds, know your rights. You first want to look at the exact wording of your parenting agreement/parenting orders to see if there are any emergency contingencies for the school being derailed. For example, do you have a clause in your agreement about what happens on snow days or when your child needs to stay home school because they are sick? Even though your existing agreement may have terms in black and white, those terms may be as confusing and difficult to understand as the times we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This language can be a starting point if you do find it in your agreement, but with school uncertain future, you will probably need to negotiate some kind of temporary plan to get through.

The bottom line is that parents need to try to keep a cool head and negotiate whatever makes the most sense for their children during Covid-19.

If you have any questions about your existing or if you are stumped on what this temporary schedule should look like, s always — I am are here to help you,

Stay positive and stay safe!  Keeping positive in these difficult times will help us get through this an handle all of the challenges.


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