Ex Etiquette: Back-to-School Organization

Ways to coordinate custody when your kids go back and forth

Q: I share custody of my son Jake with his father, who lives three blocks away. We do pretty well sharing the parenting responsibilities, but it was very difficult staying organized last year when Jake started kindergarten. And, now that my ex has remarried, I also have to coordinate efforts with his wife. I was hoping you could offer some tips to make the house-to-house transition, plus staying organized for school, easier on all of us.

A: One of the keys to successful co-parenting is staying organized. But this is easier said than done when Mom and Dad don't live together — and when another caregiver is added to the mix. Coordinating carpools, homework, lunches, after-school sports and anything else the kids can jam into a day can be next to impossible. So, my first tip before anything else is to figure out an efficient method to communicate with your child's other parent (and the parent's new partner, if need be) so that you can coordinate efforts. This means agreeing on how you'll advise each other of dates, changes in appointments and destinations, and when homework is due. Will you phone? Is email your preferred way to communicate? Will you touch base every Monday?

For divorced parents who are at odds, it seems information is power, and the parent who knows the most wins. This is especially true when you have two women jockeying for position. Just remember: No one wins when you withhold information from the other parental figures in your child's life. Agree on a communication method, and then stick to it. And don't use your child as the go-between. None of that "Tell Dad you have practice on Tuesday" stuff. To keep the child's stress to a minimum, parents should be talking to each other. Don't depend on your child to pass on information.

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