Back-to-school season is stressful for all parents but it’s a little more complicated when you’re divorced: Who’s doing the annual trek to Target to load up on school supplies — and more importantly, who’s paying? Are both of you listed on important school forms?
To make heading back to school a little less overwhelming for you and the kiddos, we asked HuffPost Divorce bloggers and readers on Facebook to share their tried-and-true advice. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Split the cost of back-to-school supplies.
Between backpacks, calculators, school uniforms and that extra big box of Crayola crayons, your kids’ back-to-school supplies can end up costing a small fortune. To lessen the individual burden among parents, Lynsey Mattingly and her ex divvy up purchasing responsibilities.
“My ex and I always separate who’s buying what, with him buying the backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles while I usually get the entire supply list the teachers send home,” she told us. “It comes out to about the same price and this way we are both playing to our strengths: he gets a few quality items that he’s better at picking out and I get the specific, detailed things.”
2. Create a shared Google calendar to keep everyone in the loop.
Each school year, Elizabeth Denham dutifully updates the families’ shared Google calendar with the kids’ upcoming school events. This way, no one misses back-to-school night or a holiday performance.
“For all of the really important events, I send invites through the calendar as soon as I enter the date so that I don’t have to remember to do it by phone,” she said.
3. Drop the kids off together on the first day of school.
The first day of school can be a scary, overwhelming experience for even the most confident kiddo. If at all possible, try to free up your schedules so both of you can drop the kids off and show your support, said Leah Porritt.
“On the first morning of school this year, we met before and walked our son to school together,” she said. “He had both of us there to send him off to first grade and I think that meant a lot to him — even if the normal school year mornings are a mixture of mom, dad, stepparents or before-and-after care. For his sake, we put differences aside and make an effort to both be present together.”
4. And if your ex can’t be there for day one, text a pic.
If your ex is unable to make it that first day, be generous and send him or her a pic. (You have at least 20 on your camera roll — why not share the love?)
“Texting a pic is an act of goodwill and will be greatly appreciated,” said blogger Valerie DeLoach. “And you never know — one kind act could change the whole dynamic of your current relationship.”
5. Let your kids’ teachers know who’s who in your blended family.
Your family tree likely got a lot more complicated post-divorce, especially if you or your ex remarried. Early on in the school year, fill your kids’ teachers in on who’s who in your family; that way, there’s no confusion when your child’s stepdad picks her up.
“I do it because it can be confusing for teachers to hear my son talk about his parents, stepparents and numerous siblings on either side,”said Porritt. “He’s old enough now to explain who is who, but it makes it more comfortable for him if his teacher already understands his extended and blended family situation and doesn’t need to question him!”
Another bonus of touching base with your kids’ teacher? Backpacks that are a little less heavy, said reader Carmen Poff.
“When my ex and I tell the teachers our kids have two homes, most will send home a second set of text books so they won’t have to haul them back and forth,” she said.
6. Attend parent-teacher conferences together.
Heading to parent-teacher conferences as a team — like writer Carolyn Flower does every year with her kids’ dad — sends a strong message to your children and their teachers: Regardless of what happened in the past, today we’re partners who have the kids’ best interests at heart.
“As a collaboratively divorced family, we’ve never missed a parent-teacher meeting,” Flower said. “We feel that demonstrating we are still a team shows the children and the school they are loved and supported in all they do. It plants healthy seeds for successful mindsets.”
7. If your ex lives out of state, have him or her call into the meeting.
Don’t let distance interfere with both parents taking a proactive, involved role, said Honorée Corder.
“Because my ex lives in another state, when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences, we schedule a time that works for both of us so he can be conferenced in,” she said.
8. Set times when you and your ex can debrief on your kids’ progress at school.
To ensure that no book report or soccer meet falls through the cracks, Kasey Ferris and her ex have have scheduled communication days where they discuss and update each other on their son’s life.
“Every Sunday and Wednesday there’s an email exchange where we discuss the week, any tests coming up and updates on projects that need to be completed,” she said. “Anything crucial or time-sensitive is handled via text, but everything else goes into a Sunday/Wednesday email. It’s created a lot of peace between us.”
9. Don’t leave your ex’s side out of the family tree.
Regardless of how you feel about your ex, your kids still need him or her in their lives. When there’s a family tree assignment — or a photo project that calls on family photos — rise above any bitterness and include your ex’s side of the family (yes, that includes new spouses).
“If there is a project at school that asks for family photos I always make sure that the kids try to include pictures of their mom, their mom’s partner and kids as well as my own partner and kids,” said reader Barry Fraser.
10. Create a group chat where you discuss your kids’ wins and progress.
Start a group chat that includes the parents and the kids and send texts whenever your kids ace an assignment or need a little encouragement to bring that C grade up. It’s a little communication trick that has worked wonders for blogger Emma Bathie and her family.
“The idea is to direct the reminders and notes to the kids but they’re there for both parents to see and comment on if needed,” she said. “It can also be a nice way for the parents to make positive/encouraging comments about each other in front of the kids (‘Hey Matt, I really appreciate you picking up the kids for me last night when I was stuck in a meeting and then traffic. It was really helpful!’) You’re also showing the kids you can be the grown-ups they need you to be.”
By Susan Saper Galamba
Statistics show that alcohol is the number one drug problem in the United States. It also tends to be a big problem in divorces.
There has been a significant increase in cases in the last two or three years in which I have seen one spouse claim that the other spouse abused alcohol. Generally, the spouse I meet with claims that his or her spouse is an alcoholic. As I’m not a teetotaler, I never just accept the claim at face value; rather, I always inquire into the details of the allegations. The fact that someone has a drink every day does not mean he or she is an alcoholic. However, when a person’s dependency on alcohol results in problems with interpersonal relationships, an inability to control alcohol consumption and a disregard of the damage that the alcohol is doing to the spouse and the family, the reality is that there is an issue of alcohol dependency.
Alcoholism is the monster in the closet. It is the “thing” for which spouses and children make excuses to keep the monster hidden. What is often the most difficult aspect of divorce for the spouse of an alcoholic is opening the door to the closet and letting the monster come out. This “thing” that the spouse has hidden so well will now have to be proven in court to protect the children. A spouse’s alcoholism may not be an issue if minor children are not part of a divorce; however, it is a significant issue when minor children are involved.
Generally, there is a huge amount of guilt involved when the spouse of an alcoholic seriously considers divorce, especially when what the spouse really wants is for the alcoholic to seek help. Whether a spouse is an alcoholic or not, one of the hardest lessons to learn is that the only person you can control is yourself, and if an alcoholic refuses to help him or herself, you have to protect yourself and your children. If you are considering divorce and are married to someone who is dependent on alcohol, you have to stop covering it up. This doesn’t mean you should start making overt statements about your spouse’s problems with alcohol, but rather you should not hide it. If your spouse’s alcohol abuse is going to be an issue in your case, you will have to be able to prove it, but if no one knows about it, how are you going to prove it? Taking a picture of all of the empty beer cans in the trash isn’t going to do the trick. Think about it this way: the picture doesn’t prove your spouse actually drank all the beers in the trash. Conversely, how are you going to refute the allegation that you bought the beers and are merely setting him or her up? However, if you have friends or family members who can substantiate the alcohol abuse, have videos that document the behavior or have other evidence that corroborates your allegations, you are going to be in a much better position when you file for divorce.
It’s also important to seek the assistance of a mental health professional for yourself and children, if applicable. You will most likely have plenty of blame thrown at you from your alcoholic spouse, including being the cause of his or her need for alcohol. The input you receive from a mental health professional will allow you to process what’s happening without having your guilt control your reaction. It will also allow your children the opportunity to freely express themselves without the concern that they are being disloyal to the other parent.
A frequent obstacle in the pursuit of divorce is the non-alcoholic spouse’s concern about the alcoholic spouse having parenting time with the children. It is this exact reason that you will need proof of the spouse’s alcohol abuse. Courts are supposed to make decisions based on the best interests of minor children, which includes the children’s safety and overall well being. If you have evidence of current alcohol abuse that would endanger the safety of your child, the likelihood is extremely good that there will be restrictions on the alcoholic spouse’s parenting time.
The essential component in these situations is exposing the monster and being able to prove that the spouse’s alcohol dependency endangers the safety of the child. Your word is not going to be enough long-term. I can also assure you that an alcohol dependent spouse who is unwilling to get help will either deny or downplay his or her alcohol consumption. Even when a spouse is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or public intoxication, the claim will be made that the children weren’t with him or her and away from danger. It is in these types of situations that you need to be able to prove that the DUI is merely an example of the alcohol dependent spouse’s poor decision making, and offer additional evidence regarding instances when the children’s safety was at risk.
The decision to dissolve your marriage to someone who you have always protected and whose monster you have kept hidden in the closet is unbelievably difficult. However, the fear of not knowing what will happen when you open the closet door shouldn’t prevent you from protecting yourself and your children.
On Sept. 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, under specific parameters. Read the memorandum from Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke for details.
Next Steps for Phasing Out DACA
All DACA benefits are provided on a two-year basis, so individuals who currently have DACA will be allowed to retain both DACA and their work authorizations (EADs) until they expire.
USCIS will adjudicate, on an individual, case by case basis:
Properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, 2017.
Properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of the date of this memorandum, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted as of Oct. 5, 2017.
Individuals who have not submitted an application by Sept. 5, for an initial request under DACA may no longer apply. USCIS will reject all applications for initial requests received after Sept. 5.
BY MINDEY ELGART
FEBRUARY 21, 2017
Facing a divorce is confusing.
You are approaching an unfamiliar process. Have you heard about divorce mediation? Here is my summary of the divorce mediation process.
I work with both husband and wife together.
You don’t need to be on the same page regarding the resolution of your divorce matters. You do need to be in agreement to voluntarily walk into the room and participate in the mediation process. It is my job to help guide you toward a Marital Settlement Agreement that is equitable to both parties. I provide information about the relevant law from a neutral perspective. The process includes both spouses and me, your attorney mediator, in the mediation room, but you may each consult with separate attorneys any time you want, before or during the mediation process.
What are the benefits? Money is a big one.
Mediation is significantly less expensive than the courtroom battle of litigation. We use a set fee rather than a retainer and hourly rate as is traditional in the legal field. I cannot estimate a specific fee until I meet with both of you during the complimentary consultation in order to know what your issues are and the resulting number of mediation sessions that will be required to complete your divorce process, but I will tell you that the set fee tends to be lower than the initial retainer you would each be quoted from a litigator.
Time is another advantage.
The duration of mediation is measured in months rather than years.
Mediation is more constructive and respectful.
The nature of litigation can become a cycle of negativity. Generally divorcing spouses don’t agree on the resolution of the issues when you begin the mediation process and working toward resolution is a much healthier path through a mediated divorce.