Back to School – Solving Parenting Time Problems During Covid-19

It’s that time of year again when students are getting ready to head back to school. In 2020, parents are struggling with the challenges of COVID-19 where most schools are not open as normal.  Some schools are offering the option for students to attend in-person classes two days a week; some are offering half-day classes in person; and some schools are continuing to teach virtually.  Most schools are providing an option for parents to allow their children to start off the school year from home.  This new reality has created many issues for parents who are now looking into how they can manage their children’s new schedules with their work schedules.  Especially as many schools did not create a plan until right before classes start.

Parents who are living separately or divorced are having greater challenges.  Parenting plans need to be changed to consider the new school schedule.  Some parents have disputes as to whether their children should attend classes in person or virtually, or who should be responsible for overseeing the virtual classes.  And since many schools did not reveal their plans until just weeks before the start of classes, parents are finding that it is difficult to get their issues resolved through the courts. 

Thankfully, there are alternatives to going to court. 

Mediation and collaborative practice or both forms of dispute resolution that occur OUTSIDE of the courts. Even when there are issues between parents under normal circumstances, the courts often will send parents to mediation before a hearing.  Knowing this, it makes more sense to just start off in an out of court alternative.

Mediation and collaborative practice are private processes, where the parents work out a resolution with the assistance of professionals.  In mediation, parents work with a neutral mediator, either with or without lawyers present, in order to reach a negotiated agreement.  Because it happens outside of the courthouse, parents can take the time they need to thoroughly consider all of the options available so that they can come up with a solution that works for their family. 

Collaborative practice is different in that the parents are each represented by trained attorneys who help them to work together in a “team” approach to find a resolution that fits the needs of their families.  In the collaborative model, the team can also utilize the assistance of a child specialist to take into consideration the children’s specific needs and positions.  This allows for a settlement where everyone feels their concerns have been met and the outcome is the best solution for their family.

One of the best things about collaborative practice and mediation is that you do not need to wait for weeks to get in front of a judge.  Often times, your case can be addressed in a very short period of time.  This allows parents to work out their differences and get the children ready for school in time for the new year.

This year has proven to be a challenge to many families and schools are trying to adapt like the rest of us.  If you are struggling with managing school with your ex, mediation and collaborative practice are two ways to resolve your issues before the school year is half-way through.