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Don't let conflict with your co-parent ruin the kids' school year

If you're a Pleasanton parent with shared custody of the kids, it's not too late to re-tool your relationship with your co-parent. Although Pleasanton schools re-opened on Aug. 13, there's still plenty of time to ensure that you and your co-parent — and most importantly, the kids — have a conflict-free school year.

Blended families face unique challenges

After a divorce or break-up, frequently the former partners find new love interests. When relationships become serious, what typically results is one or more blended families.

This can be a hard transition to make — and not just for the kids. It's tough to observe your ex's new partner in the role that you once filled. But when there are kids involved, it's important to make every effort to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Your custody order is a blueprint

Whether the custody order in place is an interim or final judgment, both you and your ex are bound by its terms. The conditions spelled out in the order leave co-parents with no "wiggle room," so if something in the order is confusing, you need to get legal clarification on its meaning.

Kids are notorious for playing one parent against the other, especially regarding school assignments and study time. If your child claims to have "studied at Mom's house," you need to be prepared to verify these claims. Otherwise, your son or daughter may perceive your not following up as a license to slack off academically.

The older your children are, the more complex their assignments will be. Some may take weeks of research and writing, all of which should be monitored by the parents. But which parent should have this responsibility to ensure the kids stay on-track and get good grades?

To some extent, the parents can delegate responsibilities to correspond with their academic strengths. For instance, if Mom was a math whiz, she could arrange to go over math homework each night even if it's done remotely. Ditto for English for Dad if he aced all of his college themes.

This is but one suggestion, and there are many creative ways parents can delegate their parenting responsibilities, e.g., Mom helps the older child with his work while Dad assists the younger child with hers. Alternatively, Dad could help out on Mondays and Tuesdays and then Mom steps in on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Don't forget after-school activities

Today's well-rounded kids don't just excel in academics. College recruiters gravitate toward kids who play on school sports teams and who hold office in after-school clubs and are members of various interest groups.

But kids' activities can strain families who may struggle to pay for fees and uniforms or even just with shuttling their offspring to practices, games, meetings and matches. Here is where it's often most vital to cooperate and compromise with your ex and his or her significant other.

You may resent that your ex's new wife is involved in your child's extracurricular activities and feel that she's usurping your role of mother. But if you don't get home until 6:30 p.m. every night and your daughter's debate club practices twice weekly at 4 p.m., her stepmother may be the only logical choice to get her to and from practices and debates.

Co-parenting isn't always easy — but it can be very rewarding when it's your children who benefit most from stable parenting relationships.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
699 Peters Avenue
Suite C
Pleasanton, CA 94566

Phone: 925-271-5650
Fax: 925-462-0837
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