Bookbag? Check. Lunchbox? Check. Pencils, paper, notebooks, erasers? Check, check, check, and check.

Getting the kids back into the swing of a new school year can be a bit hectic, to say the least. There’s so much to do and buy before the first bell even rings. Then comes the dreaded return to the academic routine – no more staying up late, no more sleeping in, and lots of homework and extracurricular activities to juggle in the evening.

For divorced parents, the back-to- school to-do list can be much more complicated than simply buying supplies or keeping up with class schedules – Who pays for those new sneakers? How do we handle teacher conferences? Should we readjust the custody arrangement? What if my routine isn’t reinforced by my former spouse?

Unfortunately,there isn’t one right solution to any of the questions you may be asking yourself. But, as always, the answer should basically be the same – do what’s best for your child.

While that will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding your divorce, there are some guiding principles to help you make good (if not always easy) choices… and with the least amount of conflict.

Map It Out

It’s a fact of life – things aren’t always going to go according to plan. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Creating a calendar with your ex now can help you both keep track of what’s happening – and on whose clock – from now until June, even if slight adjustments need to be made from time to time.

Using a school district calendar – which will have all the teacher workdays, holidays, end-of-course testing and other important dates already noted – meet with your former spouse to map out the year based on custody arrangements and child support.

There’s No “I” In Homework

Homework shouldn’t fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the custodial parent. Even if you only see your child on the weekends, stay engaged. Ask to see completed assignments and look ahead to the next lessons. More importantly, ask your child how school is going and if he or she is struggling in certain areas, use your time to get in some extra enrichment.

Check In, Not Out

No child should ever have to act as a go-between, mediator or messenger for their parents. This is especially important when it comes to school matters. Instead of relying on a child to relay who is handling early-release pick-up or buying soccer gear – which is a recipe for chaos – or checking out of the day-to-day entirely – pick a day and time each week to quickly touch base with your ex to go over the week’s schedule.

Keep Parenting A Two-Person Job

A new spouse can be a tricky hurdle to clear. Obviously, he or she will play a role in raising your child. And, so long as your ex’s new husband or wife is a positive influence, you should want him or her to establish a good relationship with your child.

But when it comes to school matters, you and your former spouse are your child’s only parents. Unless there has been a legal adoption, that new spouse should not be named as a parent on any school document, nor should he or she fill out or sign such paperwork.

Still have questions about your custody arrangements or wondering if the established child support is adequate? Contact The Lea/Schultz Law Firm at (910) 239-5990 to request an initial consultation, or visit

Jim Lea has been practicing law for nearly four decades. In 1996, he received an “A preeminent” rating from Martindale Hubbell, an honor earned by only 10 percent of the country’s lawyers. Since then, he has been named a “Super Lawyer,” honored as one of “The Best Lawyers In American” and “preeminent lawyer,” all for over 10 years. He was recently inducted into “Lawyers of Distinction,” limited to the nation’s top 10 percent of lawyers. His firm has been named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top law firms for more than five years.