back to school

Back to School and Divorce: Commonly Overlooked Topics by Divorcing Couples

Summer is coming to a close as school buses are already making their rounds in many of our communities. Getting children back into a bedtime routine can be difficult early in the school year. Parents are finding time to breathe and catch up on things they put to the side during the summer. These adjustments are even more difficult when divorcing or after divorce. This month we are discussing common topics that are often overlooked or not discussed in detail regarding school.   

What does child support cover when it comes to school costs?

Child support in Indiana covers controlled and uncontrolled expenses. However, the Indiana Child Support Guidelines don’t offer much explanation or definitions of controlled expenses and what it covers. This lack of clarity or definition allows for some customization to a final agreement regarding the definition of controlled expenses and what that shall cover on each case-by-case basis.   

What is usually missed in a divorce regarding school?

Due to the lack of clarity about what is considered a controlled expense for child support, it is important to have included in any agreement costs and guidelines associated with: 

  • clothes 
  • school supplies 
  • school registration 
  • book and technology fees 
  • lunch money 
  • school bus transportation 
  • access to school records 
  • who can contact teachers or arrange parent/teacher conferences 
  • School-related sports, equipment, fundraisers,  
  • School-related activities like band or choir, musical instruments, lessons 
  • Homework, projects, and assignments 
  • Minimum Grade Point average to participate in extracurricular activities 
  • As discussed in detail in our previous blog entry, children with special needs have an IEP or 504 plan.   

What if we have been divorced and are arguing over things not contained in our agreement regarding school-related issues?

Mediation can be a helpful tool to help resolve any conflict due to the lack of clarity in an agreement. A mediator will help facilitate a conversation to address these concerns and issues. If the parties agree on something different or something missing from their original agreement or judgment, the mediator can file any modifications directly to the court.  

What if our agreement doesn’t address college? Then who pays for what?

Indiana allows courts to require divorced parents to pay a portion of the college expenses for their children. According to Indiana Code § 31-16-6-2, actual costs for room and board, tuition, and expenses are all subject to parental contributions. Discussing and modifying any agreement to address secondary education costs is important. Should the parties agree to deviate from the statutory requirement, then an agreement must be filed with the court before the child enrolls in college.   

We noticed our child’s grades suffered shortly after the divorce.

Divorce is hard on a family. Kids often see a decline in grades and sometimes turn toward destructive behavior due to unresolved emotions associated with their parent’s divorce. The parents need to notify the school or the guidance counselor that they have recently divorced so the counselor can have regular check-ins with the student. More importantly, it is remaining on a unified front regarding expectations of grades and school involvement. Additional therapy may be necessary to help the child work through thoughts and emotions, which eventually will help the grades and school behavior. It may be helpful when crafting an agreement to put safeguards and procedures in place should there be a decline in grades or behavioral concerns.