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How The Start of School Can Impact a Parenting Plan

September 13, 2016  | 

{3:54 minutes to read} When I litigated, there were two times of year when I would receive quite a few calls from parents questioning a current or proposed parenting plan. The first was in December and centered around sharing the children during the holidays. The other, as the topic of this post indicates, was in September and centered around issues raised by the return to school.

Just like those unhappy children who have to leave the freedom of summer for the restriction of a classroom, there are unhappy parents who feel that access while school is in session should be different from access during the summer.

Most of the disputes I saw when I represented an individual client, and continue to see in my mediation practice, revolve around two issues in terms of overnight visits:

  1. During the school year, the primary residential parent strongly argues in favor of stability, which to them dictates that the child always stays in one house on school nights. That way the child has a home-base, will always have what is needed for school in the morning, and that parent can better ensure that homework is done. To them, going back and forth during the school week would be detrimental to the child excelling in school. The other parent will argue that spending quality time with both parents trumps stability and that there is no reason why both parents couldn’t ensure that a child does homework and has all that is necessary to excel in school. 
  2. The other issue occurs if the non-primary residential parent lives a distance away. Then the primary residential parent argues that it will be hard to get the children to school on time or that the child would need to wake up too early.The other parent’s view is that the child can nap on the trip and that again, having a consistent relationship of overnights with both parents warrants this minor inconvenience once a week.

While the conflict may be the same, the approach at a resolution is markedly different in a mediation as opposed to an adversarial process. The standard in both is the best interests of the child, but that can be more difficult to discern in an adversarial process.

In a court proceeding, the parent seeking the access may accuse the other of trying to withhold the children. The primary residential parent may accuse the other of being a bad parent who doesn’t care about the well being of the children. Not a great way to reach a determination that will work best for that family.

In a mediation, we keep the discussion on the child and not so much on the parent. Why is it important for the child to have that stability of a home-base? Why is it important for the child to have the continuity of contact with the non-primary residential parent?

When we speak in those terms, it is much easier to reach a resolution that is flexible and looks at both parents’ considerations about what is best for the children in an equal light.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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