Just like every fall, back to school season has returned, however, returning to school in the middle of a pandemic certainly looks different this year. First and foremost, many schools are operating under some form of a virtual learning schedule. For example, in Mecklenburg County, all public schools are being held virtually for at least part of the school year. Virtual learning poses a whole new set of challenges to parents and children, especially those sharing custody in different households. Here are some tips to help you navigate this new experience so you and your children can have a successful school year:
1. Review your custody agreement.
Your custody arrangement can be in the form of a Court Order or an Agreement. Every custody arrangement is unique, and it is important to become familiar with the language of the Order or the Agreement. For example, it is common to exchange the minor children at school or after school. If school is not in session, then your Order or Agreement might not address where to exchange the Minor Children..
2. Discuss necessary adjustments with the other parent.
It is important to have clear communication with the other parent so that if any issues arise you will be able to address them quickly and efficiently. Here are a few suggestions of topics to discuss with the other parent:
Who will watch a child if they get sick, or, for those in in-person schools, if school suddenly switches to virtual learning? If a child becomes sick will any special arrangements need to be put in place? This also applies if a parent gets sick. It is important to have these conversations before anyone becomes ill so that a plan is in place.
B. Coordinating schoolwork.
Come up with a plan on how to coordinate on-line schoolwork to make sure the children will be on task and will be completing all of their work. There are a variety of websites, calendars, and apps that can help facilitate this coordination process.
Are there additional expenses that may be incurred as a result of remote learning. Remote learning may require the need to hire additional child care or even an instructor to assist children working in the remote learning environment while the parent with custody performs their work. This could also include the purchase of computers, iPads, or any other additional items that teachers may have requested. If a child is going to school then expenses could include masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, or other personal protective gear. Child support covers normal child expenses, but these are certainly unique expenses that are being incurred. It is important to discuss if child support will cover these expenses or if a modification will be needed going forward.
3. Talk to your children
Informing your children about the schedule established and any contingency plans that you make is critical so they can be familiar and know what to expect. Establishing a routine will help the children transition to this new version of school and this new version of ‘normal’.
North Carolina Custody and Visitation Recommendations during COVID-19
It is important to remember that pursuant to the North Carolina Custody and Visitation Recommendations during COVID-19, that COVID-19 itself is not a reason to deny parenting time. Custody and visitation must still be followed pursuant to your Order or Agreement. In addition, even while school is virtual, your custody arrangement will follow the normal school calendar. For example, Christmas break for visitation will still be defined by the Christmas break that that the school is following.