How Should I Handle Homework and Custody?

When parents of school-aged children divorce, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure there is a smooth transition for the children. The divorce will include an agreement between the parents detailing shared obligations moving forward. Details will address issues that include identifying the custodial parent and shared custody living arrangements, as well as many other details. In New Jersey, parents agree to a parenting plan that is customized to address a variety of anticipated situations, including:

  • Work schedules of the parents
  • Educational needs of the children
  • Availability of childcare
  • Involvement of extended family in childcare
  • Geographic distance between parents

In most instances, a custodial parent has the children for most of the time during the week and every other weekend, while the non-custodial parent has the children on alternating weekends and perhaps one weekday. This allows both parents to maintain close connections with the children. The flexibility offered by New Jersey in developing the terms of these agreements allows for specificity as well. Clear guidance for how holidays are to be spent, as well as when adjustments may be made to address novel situations, can be included to avoid vagueness and enable mutually agreed upon adjustments.

Parenting plans should include specific provisions to address anticipated needs and situations. Typical provisions that appear in these plans include how time will be managed for:

  • Children and parent birthday celebrations
  • Celebrating secular, national, and religious holidays
  • Vacations and summer holidays
  • School holidays and academic breaks
  • Children’s after school activities
  • Access to children’s medical records

Even the most comprehensive agreement cannot outline every obligation of each parent. Behind every agreement there needs to be an intention to work together to act in the best interests of the children.

Effective Co-Parenting

Most parents will make the effort to live up to the intent of parenting agreements and terms of shared custody. This includes focusing their efforts on helping their children to do well in school. Effective co-parenting will involve cooperating on school issues, such as homework, so that their academic success will not be impaired. Parents should maintain a predictable and consistent schedule to ensure homework and school projects are completed thoroughly and on-time.

How can Children Maintain Focus on Academics?

To assist the children in maintaining focus, parents should work collaboratively, including sharing details of time commitments, schoolwork demands, and how the children will complete their schoolwork. Consistency is key and having similar routines in each household can make this happen. For example, setting aside a certain amount of time each day to complete homework assignments can be helpful. Communication between parents is vital.

It is inappropriate to expect the children to be the conduit between parents when explaining schoolwork needs and obligations. It is also an unnecessary burden to expect the children to be the exclusive source of information regarding school expectations. Accordingly, both parents should maintain relevant contact with the school and the children’s teachers. Parents should share information they receive about notices, permission slips, assignment lists, and the like.

It is understandable that divorced parents may not want to speak to each other on a regular and consistent basis. Tools are available online and can serve as a repository for all relevant school documents and information. A shared account can be used by both parents as a place to access important notices, documents, and information. This can reduce the amount of in-person contact if such creates unwelcome tension. A simpler option is to share documents and due dates with each other via email.

What If One Parent Does Not Deal with Homework?

Children are often resistant to doing homework, even under the best of circumstances. If you add a situation where the children are only expected to do homework at one parent’s home, then the quality of their education can be seriously impaired. Many parents face this dilemma and are at a loss as to how to react. In New Jersey, it is possible to modify parenting plans based on either a change in circumstance or the best interests of the children. Changed circumstances can be either those of the children or of one or both parents. Issues such as a job change, remarriage, or relocation can justify a parenting plan modification.

The best interests of the child are another avenue to justify modifying a parenting plan. Some parents do not believe homework is of value, while other parents may be lenient or overly permissive in an attempt to garner favor with the children and undermine the relationship with the other parent. These are examples of what a court may find to be contrary to the best interests of the child and a failure to meet the duty to act in their best interests.

If conflicts about homework cannot be resolved between parents, then modifying the parenting plan may be in order. The changes that will be sought will need to be presented to the court so that it can find there is a need to make the change, the changes proposed are expected to meet the need, and the children’s best interests will be served. The ability to prevail in these cases will require an understanding of the family court system, how the court has viewed similar situations in the past, and the types of modifications that appear justified to serve the best interests of the children.

Since these issues are fact-specific, it will be important to have a complete record of the facts of the case, which includes evidence of the non-compliant parent to ensure that homework is attempted and completed when the children are in their custody. Developing this record may require a certain amount of time and patience.

Resolving parenting plans can be a draining and difficult task. Do not let a non-compliant ex-spouse get in the way of your child’s learning and wellbeing. Our experienced lawyers at Burnham Douglass help parents successfully resolve child custody issues for our clients. We will help you prevail in your case with as little disruption to your life as possible. For a free consultation, call us 856-512-1461 or complete our online form today. Located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey.

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