Back-to-School Co-Parenting

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It’s that time of year again.  For most students and parents, the end of August means back -to-school shopping, open houses to meet teachers, and signing your kids up for after school sports and activities.  For married couples with children, these tasks are routine. But if you are divorced or recently separated and you and your spouse do not have an agreement or court order to guide you in dealing with these situations, it can be stressful.  The last thing most parents want is to cause undue stress on their children as they are about to start a new school year.

Who pays for the school supplies, new clothes and backpack?  Who pays for the band instruments and sports registration?  What about field trips?  While every individual  situation is different, typically the parent receiving child support pays for these “ordinary” expenses.  If custody is shared between the parties and their incomes are similar, usually the parents split the expenses.  Sometimes parties agree on, or a Judge can order a division of the expenses based on the income of the parents. Other times the parent that wants the child to participate in the sport or activity will pay.  It is best to have an agreement regarding these fluctuating expenses prior to the expense occurring.  When both parties have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities, arguments about these expenses are usually eliminated.

There are also expenses that are referred to as “extraordinary,” meaning those that are not routine for all children.  Extraordinary expenses can be private school tuition or special classes to meet the child’s education needs as well as expenses related to transporting the child between each parent’s home.  Extraordinary expenses are typically paid by the parent in proportion to their income.

No matter who has custody of the child during the school open house, both parents are invited and encouraged to attend.  Your child is not the first, and certainly will not be that last child at the school with parents who are separated.  No matter who is filling out the school forms, it is important to list phone numbers and addresses for both parents – even if one parent lives out of state.  It is also important to keep the school informed of changes to the child’s schedule and transportation.  Being a helpful resource for your child’s teacher will only benefit your child.  Unless your court order states otherwise, both parents in North Carolina have equal access to your child’s educational records.

If you have any questions about this legal issue or other legal issues relating to divorce or separation, then contact us at 704-243-9693 or at

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