The beginning of the school year is fast approaching, with most Utah school districts beginning mid-August. This means that schedules and responsibilities shift, and healthy parent communication is crucial. It is time to step up your co-parenting game! Your children are naturally more anxious when school starts. It is a big adjustment. Avoid adding contentions between parents to your kids’ plates.
For those who share legal custody of their children, contact your child’s school to gain access to the school’s “parent portal”. Parents who share legal custody have the right to access school records and can be equally involved in the child’s education. It is much easier to have your own accounts. This can help eliminate miscommunication between parents. There’s nothing more frustrating to some parents than when they don’t find out about the school program until that morning or even after the fact. (Both parents should experience the sinking feeling and panic of finding out about mid-day school programs three days before the performance.)
Reach out to teachers and ask that you are included on correspondence and volunteer opportunities. If joint parent-teacher conferences are not an option, ask to schedule a separate conference. Finally, keep in mind that school staff and administration may not know your circumstances, and will err on the side of safety. If you try to sign your child out of school for any reason, and the school does not have you “on the list” in your child’s record, they may refuse to release your child to you without confirming with the custodial parent. (Trust us when we tell you that this is not an ideal situation for anybody.) To help avoid snags like that, verify with your child’s school that you are included in the records as a legal custodian of your child. They could ask you for a certified copy of your custody orders to show that you are, in fact, a legal custodian. It isn’t a bad idea to acquire a certified copy from the courthouse to have on file.
We receive several questions this time of year about school fees, after school, school breaks, visitation times, transportation, etc.
Money tends to be a point of contention for parents. So, who pays for what?
Child support is for the purpose of caring for the children. That means if your custody and child support order does not state otherwise, school fees; school lunch; yearbooks; extracurricular activities; class fees; parking passes; school supplies; school clothes; etc. are generally paid by the party receiving child support. If needed, check with your schools about their fee waivers and reduced or free lunch programs.
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE
Unless you and your co-parent have agreed otherwise, Utah Code § 30-3-35 provides guidelines for the minimum parent-time schedules, including holiday and summer time.
Parent-time schedules can become confusing during the school year between holidays and those random Fridays, Mondays, and short days that are thrown into the mix. When a school day or snow day falls on the noncustodial parent’s regular mid-week day, they may choose to exercise their parent time with the kids from 9:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., accommodating the custodial parent’s work schedule, and if the noncustodial parent can be with the kids. Similarly, on short days, the noncustodial parent and child may start their weekend as soon as school gets out through 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. If there is a long weekend or holiday (generally teacher planning days), it gives the noncustodial parent and child a longer weekend together.
Parents don’t always think about holidays that fall on a day when school is in session—Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day. If this is the case, just as the custodial parent would be responsible, the noncustodial parent is responsible for making sure the child gets to school. You can find more detailed information about holiday parent-time schedules, including fall and spring breaks, here.
Finally, sometimes there are hiccups and frustrations over who will be spending time with the kids and/or transporting the kids to and from school. There are times where one parent may not like an in-law, step-parent, or another adult who is involved in transporting. This has been an issue large enough to justify the Utah legislature and courts to spell it out for us. Utah code provides that a step-parent, grandparent, or other responsible adult that the noncustodial parent has chosen, can pick up the child if the custodial parent knows the identity of the person and the noncustodial parent will be with the child by 7:00 p.m. (Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-35). If there are circumstances you feel might justify otherwise, call one of our attorneys. We are well-seasoned in child custody matters.
As always, reach out to one of our skilled Utah family law attorneys if you need help with any custody or child support issues. Don’t forget to bookmark this blog, so you can check back for upcoming posts about child custody and what to expect with Halloween and Fall Break parent-time.