parenting plan dispute over covid

We Disagree On When To Send the Kids Back to School During COVID

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Co-parenting after divorce tends to be tricky in the best of times. Add COVID-19 to the mix and many people have a mess on their hands. One area causing a lot of friction these days relates to the kids going back to school. What can you do if you and your ex disagree on the right time to send your kids back to the classroom? Do parenting plans address this?

Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, regularly appears on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show. Even during a pandemic. He addresses family law questions from listeners. One recent caller finds himself in this predicament. His ex-wife wants to send the kids back to school, but he wants to keep them learning at home. What options does he have?

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Listen to the call below:

Caller: “I got divorced from my wife and we share custody. But she has primary custody because the kids are with her during the week and I have them on the weekend. I’m very involved, and usually, we share all the parental decisions 50/50. There is a situation we can’t agree on. My kid’s school is offering that they can come back to school next month, two to three days [a week].

“My wife thinks it’s ok for them to go back to school, but I would like them to continue with remote learning. If we can’t see eye to eye on this, is there anything I can do with the courts so I have a say in this decision? Or is it strictly hers because they go to school during the week when she has them?”

Rick: “It is a joint decision. That’s per your parenting plan, where it already says, ‘Joint decision making regarding education,’ as 95% of parenting plans do. There are two steps. The court you asked about is your second step.

“The first step is going to be required mediation. Take a look at your parenting plan. You’re going to see Section 5, which is several pages deep, but it’s going to talk about alternative dispute resolution.

“It’s going to say, if there are any disputes that can’t be resolved on the parenting plan, the two of you agreed to mediation. So what you want to do is get on the stick right away because you’re reaching a deadline.

Related Reading: Long-Distance Co-Parenting and COVID-19

“You want to invoke the mediation clause saying, ‘Hey, we don’t have a joint agreement so we’re required to mediate.’ She’s going to do one of two things. She’s going to agree with you and say, ‘Okay, great, let’s go ahead and mediate this problem because I don’t agree with the remote learning.’

“If she does that and you go through the mediation, and either settle the case or you’re still at a stand-still, then the courtroom door is open to you.

“Here’s the other possibility though. She may very well, after hearing you invoke this mediation clause, tell you to go pound sand. If she does that, then great. Because now you don’t have to wait to schedule a mediation you can get into court right away. Along with that is the explanation of, ‘Hey, I actually tried to stay out of court. I invoked the mediation clause and she wouldn’t even play nice.’

“It just helps. The court is still going to make rulings on the facts, but at the same time, they’re going to be pretty annoyed with her. So that’s the steps you need to follow, just invoke your mediation clause.”

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