It may seem like summer has barely started, but you’ll be seeing those back-to-school sale ads before you know it. For newly separated or divorced parents who are sharing custody of their kids, the start of the school year can bring added challenges. Even the little things like going shopping for new clothes, school supplies and sports gear can bring conflict and confusion.
Whether you’re sending your child off to first grade or their final year of high school, you probably both want to be involved. It’s not too early to determine how to divide those responsibilities and the expenses that come with them – especially if you don’t yet have a child support agreement worked out.
Divide and conquer
There are numerous ways you can divide the responsibilities so that everything is covered. You probably don’t want to spend your weekends scouring the aisles of Target together – something that can strain even the happiest marriages.
For example, one of you could handle clothing and shoes, while the other is in charge of buying backpacks, lunch bags and other supplies. If you’ve got more than one child, you could each be responsible for getting one or more fully prepared to return to school. The important thing is to show your kids you’re working together as parents.
Work out a budget
It’s best to first determine what kind of budget you have for back-to-school items and how you’ll divide the cost. If you don’t already have this codified in a child support agreement, work out something that you can both commit to for this school year. This should be evenly divided so that one parent isn’t taking their kids shopping for clothes at an upscale department store and the other has to shop at a thrift store (unless your child loves thrift-store clothes).
Back-to-school shopping is just the start of dealing with the challenges of co-parenting school-age kids. It’s important to learn not to sweat the small stuff and remember that your co-parent isn’t going to do everything just as you would. If you need to work out or modify your parenting plan before or after this back-to-school preparation phase, be sure you have sound legal guidance.