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Back to School: When Custody Affects School Activities

With holiday breaks over and children headed back to school, many parents are excited to have some extra time to themselves. However, for families with divorced or separated parents, restarting school in the New Year can be somewhat stressful.

An oft-forgotten difficulty when it comes to respecting child custody and time-sharing agreements is how to deal with school activities, handling school-related obligations, and managing extracurricular events. How should a family with divorced or separated parents handle basketball practice, field trip fees, parent-teacher conferences, and film permission slips? Relying on Florida law to answer these questions can help.

Florida family law courts attempt to find solutions and make custody and parenting agreements that strike a balance and created shared parental responsibilities that are at least roughly even. In fact, a proposed new family law bill would create a presumption in Florida that divorced or separated parents must share time with children in a 50-50 fashion. The idea behind these priorities is that children most often receive the greatest benefit when parented and cared for by both parents equally. Of course, the reality of a necessity of giving one parent primary custody often makes this difficult.

Dealing with school-related activities within the structure of a parenting plan is much easier when the relationship between the parents is amiable. However, if the relationship is strained, if the frequency with which one parent may see the shared children is restricted, and if one parent is granted legal custody in its entirety, issues can compound. The noncustodial parent may be prevented from interacting with the children in the context of school activities by the parenting plan, and in some cases could even be barred from attending school-related events attended by the custodial parent with the children.

Problems related to children’s schooling can be quite contentious between divorced or separated parents, and it is possible that one or both parents could feel as though they have been forbidden from witnessing important life events and milestones for their children. However, disobeying a custody order or refusing to follow a court-approved parenting plan is not advisable; doing so can lead to sanctions by the court and, in some (often extreme) situations, even criminal charges. The better route for a parent seeking to be more (or less) involved in his or her child’s educational life in the wake of a divorce or separation is to seek a modification to the parenting plan initially ordered by the court. If both parents agree to the modification, it may be fairly simple to have the changes made, but if one parent contests the alterations to the plan, a court petition to change the agreement will undoubtedly face opposition.

If you are having difficulty managing a parenting plan or custody agreement between you and your ex-spouse, either due to educational activity issues or due to some other snag, a qualified family law attorney can help. At Schwartz | White, our experienced Boca Raton family law attorneys are ready to assist you in advocating for your rights as a parent. Call 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.

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