Co-Parenting: Managing School-Related Expenses

co-parenting - 2houses

School supplies in every store and cooler weather — depending on where you live — are sure signs of school starting, and it’s not long before the school buses are back on their routes and your child is back in school. While it’s a fun time of year full of new beginnings and new adventures, it can also be the most expensive for parents. Co-parenting about finances successfully takes grace, compassion, and respect, but it is possible to manage all of the school-related expenses with your ex peacefully.

Dividing School and Extracurricular Expenses

The very first part of managing school expenses is deciding what qualifies for that category. In some cases, your divorce decree and co-parenting agreement may do this for you. Sometimes these will list certain expenses — such as sports fees, school picture costs, and private school tuition — and the percentage that each parent is expected to pay. If this is the case, you’re in luck. Keeping things organized is as simple as informing the other parent about any shared expenses your incur and making your own payments promptly. Remember to keep receipts for any expenses you paid for so you can show proof of payment just in case any issues do occur later on.

However, for other parents, there’s no guidance in the court order and they’re left to their own agreements. In these cases, you may want to sit down with your co-parent and try to come to an agreement on who will pay what — which will be different for every situation. It may help to make a list of all anticipated expenses beforehand — bonus points if you can show what all had to be paid last school year — so that everyone is on the same page as far as expectations. Some parents might just split all expenses down the middle, while others may need to resort to a percentage system that takes into account disparity between incomes.
Whatever you decide, remember to put it in writing, so there’s no confusion later on. You might even want to consider having your agreement added to the court order, but keep in mind, that you may still need to revisit and amend things as your children get older and expenses and needs change.

Organizing Finances While Co-Parenting

Staying organized when you’re sharing expenses can be a challenge, but 2houses makes it easier. The in-app financial management system lets you keep track of your expenses and categorize each one so it’s always clear what money was spent for which expense. You can also send the other parent an invitation to reimburse you for their portion of the expense. Just use the mobile app to take a picture of the receipt and add it right then to the expense.

Use the wish list feature to let them know if there’s anything extra coming up your child needs, such as new shoes for cross-country or a class ring. At any time, you can export the expenses into a CSV or PDF file for easy accounting and documentation. Keeping everything in one place makes it easier for both parents to access the information at any point without having to call or message the other parent or try to get information through the child.
Whether you’re tracking large amounts like tuition payments or just need a way to know if you already paid your half, 2houses is designed to make it easier for co-parenting families to manage the financial side of the school year.

Back to School: Better Organizing for an Easier Co-Parenting Relationship

separated parents - 2houses
Back-to-school season means folders, notebooks, and pencil holders are in every store, and with good reason. It’s a lot easier to stay organized when you start organized. There’s just something about new classes and new teachers that inspires everyone to start fresh. Let this carry over into your co-parenting relationship with these five tips on how to stay organized and keep communication flowing.

1. Be Proactive

You certainly don’t have to tell your child’s teacher the details of your divorce or current co-parenting status. However, it is important to make the teacher aware of anything particular that they will need to do. For example, some divorced parents may not be able to attend the same parent-teacher conference due to differing work schedules. Letting the teacher know about these things early in the year — or even before school starts if possible — shows that you’re invested in your child’s education and willing to do what’s needed for their success.

2. Streamline Communication

Having children in school comes with a lot of paperwork. Field trip permission slips, parent volunteering options, fundraisers, and communicable illness notifications are just a few of the things that can come up multiple times throughout the school year. Make things simple for you and the other parent by keeping track of important notes and notices on 2houses. You can store important documents — such as fundraisers or science fair announcements — so you don’t have to worry about it being lost in transit. The calendar feature on the app lets you put parent schedules — such as vacations or days you’re working late — and your child’s schedule in one place. And the journal tool lets you share important reminders or just fun anecdotes and pictures where both parents can easily access it when they need to.

3. Double-Check Everything

Even in the best of co-parenting situations, divorced parents are juggling a lot, and it’s easy for things to get left out of messages or misunderstood. If something sounds off — like you thought Donuts with Dad was Friday but the other parent thinks it’s Thursday — double-check before assuming the other person is wrong. Most schools today have parent portals where you can easily get information directly from the source.

4. Keep Things the Same as Possible Between Houses

Children have a lot to deal with during the school year. There are tests, daily homework, social issues to navigate, and sports/extracurricular activities. And during all of this, your child is still making huge developments physically and emotionally. All of these can increase stress levels. One way you can reduce this and help your child and yourself stay organized is to try to keep things consistent between houses. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be exactly the same. However, working with your ex to find a schedule that works for both of you — such as homework gets done right after school before dinner or the parent checks the school notice folder every evening — creates stability for your child and more peace for you.

5. Make Respect and Compassion Priorities

You already know that good co-parenting is about respecting your ex as a parent of your child. Remember that your children shouldn’t have to bear any unnecessary burdens just because they have divorced parents. This may mean sending reminders to the other parent without sarcasm or passive aggressive phrasing or just reminding yourself that they might have had a bad day when they’re short with you. Thinking of — and treating — your fellow co-parent as you would a respected colleague can go a long way toward a smooth co-parenting relationship and an easier, more organized school year.

A Blended Family: Finding Your Place as a Step-Parent

blended family - 2houses

Marrying someone who already has children is an experience that can be equal parts challenging and rewarding. If you’re having trouble relating — or just want to make sure you’re doing things right from the beginning — here are five ways to find your place in your blended family.

  1. Present a united front.

Even though you may not be the biological parent of a child, you are their parent’s spouse, and the two of you are going to need to be on the same page. You will probably have some disagreements about what the kids can do and say, just like regular parents. But expressing that in front of the kids just gives them an opening to create division. A better idea is to have regular meetings with your spouse with a goal to hash out issues and figure out how you’re going to handle them together.

  1. Stay out of the coparent dynamic.

When it comes to how your partner and their ex relate to each other, it’s important to remember they aren’t together for a reason. Coparenting relationships can be tricky to navigate and range from true friends to strict civility. Taking advantage of helpful tools like 2houses, which helps coparents keep track of schedules, messages, and important information can help. However, disagreements are still going to come up, and it’s important for you to stay out of them. Treat your spouse’s ex like a neighbor your want to stay on good terms with. Keep any comments or suggestions you have for how to handle things for private conversations between you and your spouse.

  1. Keep negative thoughts to yourself.

Even in the best of step-parent/bio-parent relationships, there are going to be things you don’t like about your spouse’s ex or how they parent. Actual safety issues should be discussed privately with your spouse. Everything else is best kept to yourself. Saying something negative about the children’s other parent can make it impossible to develop a good relationship with your step-kids and can destroy any headway you’ve already made.

  1. Engage on the child’s level.

One of the best ways to find your place as a step-parent in a blended family is to meet the child where they are. This is going to look different depending on the child’s age and interests, but here are a few examples:

  • Your step-daughter is obsessed with horses. Offer to go for a joint lesson or a trail ride at a local stable.
  • Your step-son lives and breathes soccer. Make a point to attend all the games even if it’s just to be part of the cheering section.
  • Your have a step-daughter who is a toddler. Take her to the park, cook a favorite meal, or even just sit and watch that movie she loves for the millionth time.
  • Your step-child is an adult. Engage them as you would any other adult you would want to get to know. Ask them questions about their interests to try to find some common ground. Even if you’re not going to be best friends, you can always be friendly and welcoming.
  1. Remember that integrating a blended family takes time.

Some experts believe that truly merging a blending family can take up to 10 years, so breathe and let go of unrealistic expectations. You’re not going to go from married to your step-child introducing you as “my other mom” in a year, or even three. However, with some time, patience, and sincere, non-pressuring effort, you can slowly grow and deepen your relationship with your step-kids and find your place in the process.

 

The Impact of Divorce on Children’s Education

divorce - 2houses

Parental separation can have adverse effects on children as they experience lower psychological wellbeing, which in turn can impact their achievements in education. While the conflict caused by the separation or the divorce itself can be responsible factors, it could also be that the couples who separate are not effective parents. A child’s learning begins at home, and parents who themselves did not receive any form of quality home education may not be capable of properly educating their children. The responsibility then, falls on schools and teachers. In a previous article on 2houses we covered schooling decisions for divorced couples and how it can impact their children.

Research has shown that children who experience their parents’ divorce can display psychological and behavioural reactions ranging from anxiety, depression, and increased irritability. A study published in the journal of Pediatrics & Child Health outlines that apart from the above symptoms, children can also experience problems in social relationships and school performance. In countries where the divorce rates are higher, a child’s education and school performance are affected even more. Interestingly enough, for parents it goes the other way; as average divorce rates increase, the impact of the separation lessens.

In their article on divorce and a child’s education, Children and Family Blog notes that the impact of separation or divorce varies depending on the level of conflict. In relationships where the parents experience a high-conflict situation, the separation could be seen as a relief for the children and may positively impact them. Whereas, in relationships where parents have a low-conflict situation, children can experience worse symptomatic responses, as exiting what felt like a stable family environment could create long-term shock.

Based on research spanning more than a decade on single-parent families, a study published in the journal of Family Relations emphasises that the disadvantages for children living with single parents can be substantial and may persist long into adulthood. In the paper Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, the authors detail that children of divorced parents earn lower grades, and are less likely to excel at school, regardless of the parents’ background or their level of education. They are also less likely to attend or graduate university, and more likely to be unemployed in their adult years.

These findings also relate to the degree of education provided to young children at home. While parents who divorce are less likely to provide supervision and proper education for their children, this correlation may not be entirely as a direct result of the divorce. The situation at home may be such that the parents don’t care, are ineffective, or do not have the skills or tools to provide the home education that children require. Save the Children describe how home education is crucial, as the majority of a young child’s learning takes place at home rather than school. The better the home environment, the better the child’s education. While the ability of the parents does have a big impact on a child’s upbringing, the consensus is that children of divorced families do come out worse in the end, with generally lower grades and education levels.

Separated Parents: Who Gets to Choose the Children’s School?

separated parents - 2houses

Whether it’s public, private, online, or at home, the process of picking a school comes up in every separated parent’s life. While who gets to choose the children’s school may seem like a simple question, it doesn’t always have a simple answer. This is especially true if the parents disagree, such as one parent wants the child to go to public school and the other wants to homeschool. To get you started, here are some of the basic factors involved in most cases.

The State(s) the Separated Parents Live In

Because family law is state specific, it’s difficult to answer almost any question about which parent can make what decision without taking the state into consideration. For parents who live in the same state and also filed for divorce in that state, it’s a fairly easy lookup of family law code. However, in situations where one parent lives in another state or the parents no longer reside in the state the divorce was filed in, things get a bit trickier.

In these circumstances, you’ll want to go by the guidelines for the state the divorce was filed in because that’s the court that has jurisdiction over the case. For example, if the divorce was filed in Ohio, but one parent now lives in Indiana, Ohio’s laws are followed. If both parents have moved out of state, it’s a good idea to consider filing a change of jurisdiction so that the case is being dealt with in the proper state.

The Type of Custody Agreement

What kind of legal custody arrangement you have with your ex is one of the most important factors when it comes to who gets to choose the children’s school.

Sole Custody

If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent usually has full decision-making authority. This is true even if you have a generous visitation schedule that allows the parents to split the time fairly equally.

Joint Custody

In situations where the parents have joint legal custody, the family court system gives the parents equal decision-making authority. Again, this is true even if the children primarily reside with one parent, which can still be a different situation than a court-designated residential parent covered below. Joint legal custody situations assume that the parents will be able to come to a mutual agreement on the important decisions involving the children — such as education.

The Residential Parent

A residential parent is a designation for which parent’s house is used for school district purposes. Residential parents can be used in both sole and joint custody cases. If your divorce took place when your children were already of school age, it’s likely your agreement already includes a residential parent designation. If the children were very young, it may be something you need to add in now. If you already have a residential parent as part of your coparenting agreement, that parent’s district will be used. However, if you want to try to go out of district, are considering private schools, or want to homeschool, the residential parent doesn’t really come into play.

Final Considerations

Great coparenting involves a lot of communication and compromise. 2houses can help you with this process by making it easier to share information and see schedules at a glance. It makes it easier to see the logistics of the situation and integrate the best interests of the children. As with any other coparenting concern, if you can come to an agreement on your own, it’s all the better for everyone involved. If that’s not possible, the decision is usually brought to mediation or goes before a judge who will have the final say.

Divorce Announcement Wording Tips for Your Children

divorce announcement wording - 2houses

Talking to your children about divorce is never easy. Most spouses are going through an emotionally challenging time and want to minimize the stress on children. Achieving this is possible with care and attention throughout the divorce process, beginning with the first conversations you have as a family about your separation.

One way to make those chats as supportive as possible is to use specific language. Certain words are often more nurturing to children, and send the right message at a time when kids are particularly vulnerable. Encouraging words can help ease the transition for your entire family.

Use “We” Instead of “I”

Even if you and your spouse disagree on many issues, it helps if you can be united when speaking to your children. Breaking the news about separation or divorce should be done by both spouses together, with as little hint about animosity or anger as possible. Using “we” reinforces this idea of stability to your children, who are just learning of your intent to live apart.

Be Selective in Choosing Information

Some parents flood their children with information in the first conversation, in an attempt to proactively answer all of their questions. This can overwhelm the child, who may or may not have had an inkling of what was to come. Start with the basics. Remaining open to questions after you tell your children is important, as that’s when you will have a better idea of how they perceive the situation.

Stay Focused on Your Child

Tell the children how the change in the family will affect their lives. For example, when providing details, say things like, “we’ll be taking care of you together, but we will live in two different homes.”, “Our change in family life won’t affect your school or your friends.” Before the conversation, make a list of what your children currently enjoy doing and how that might change after the divorce.

Reassure Them It’s Not Their Fault

Often children think they may be responsible for their parents’ divorce. Telling them that they did nothing wrong is important, so they can feel somewhat at ease with what’s happening. Over time, they will probably have more questions about why you and your spouse have chosen to end your marriage, and you may want to listen closely to their worries about the root causes of the event.

Talk to Them About the Plan

For many parents, the main objective is to help their children feel secure in the face of divorce. Give them a plan as early as possible, so they know their parents still love them and will look after their needs. Use phrasing like, “your father and I,” “your mother and I,” and “our family,” when describing how things will unfold. You can also say, “we will both always be here for you,” to reinforce this idea of consistency.

Most children will remember this conversation for many years to come. It can set up the emotional road for both the children and the parents, as they embark on divorce or separation. Every parent makes mistakes, but by taking care with what you say and how you communicate with your spouse, you can support your children over the long term. Stay open and supportive when talking and listening to all members of your family.

5 advantages of a Co-Parenting Schedule

co-parenting schedule - 2houses

For the sake of their children, many co-parents aim to work together. Experts recommend many strategies to contribute to this co-operation, which should result in an emotionally healthy environment for the children. Using a co-parenting schedule is one way to support positive co-parenting. Here are some ways that a co-parenting schedule helps you to communicate with your co-parent and promotes your relationship with your children.

  1. 1. Supports Open Dialogue

It is not always easy to talk to your former partner, especially when the end of the relationship is still raw. However, communication is essential to ensure the children get the support they require. By using a co-parenting schedule, you can update dates, times and schedule activities without having to engage in a face-to-face conversation. Sometimes it is easier on everyone to have a go-between, and in this case, it can be the scheduling software.

  1. 2. Creates Consistency

Many co-parents have legally binding schedules that allow them to spend time with the kids. By relying on software that keeps accurate track of when the children are set to go to their other home. There are fewer chances of errors. Fewer arguments or misunderstandings create a calmer environment for the children, who become accustomed to reliable and comforting routines. It creates consistency for everyone involved, so they can plan their lives without undue stress.

  1. 3. Promotes Flexibility

In addition to providing a consistent and reliable basis for the calendar of both houses, a co-parenting schedule allows for flexibility. With a clear, easy-to-read schedule, parents have little problem making room for an unexpected event or visit that may fall outside the normal routine. By knowing when the children are going to be at both houses, they can keep track of how time has been allotted and tend to be more agreeable for those times when one parent just wants their children to be part of a special celebration.

  1. 4. Allows for Sharing of Memories

Parents have one thing in common: they want to participate fully in the lives of their children. When they share time with a co-parent, it is inevitable they are going to miss some important experiences their children have with the other guardian. By using a co-parenting scheduling tool, they can swap photos, videos and other momentos of the other parents’ time. For the children, this can be extra special, since they can talk about the photos with the other parent when they return to their other home. When parents show a willingness to communicate and share, it makes it easier and more pleasant for the children.

  1. 5. Promotes Parent-to-Parent Discussion

As life evolves, both parents will experience major life changes. An online communication tool can allow parents to keep each other in the loop, without putting it on the shoulders of children to relay information. When a parent starts a new job, has an unexpected illness, is in a new important relationship. There will be tangible effects on the children. Direct information between co-parents can facilitate discussion about how these changes may disrupt the co-parenting routine and the emotional lives of everyone involved.

Creating a positive, healthy and nurturing environment for children is the objective of most co-parents. Using a co-parenting scheduling tool can make the process easier and less challenging for guardians, who may want to do the best for the kids but are still working through their own emotions. Learn more about how the scheduling tools offered by 2houses can help your family to grow and thrive.

Co-Parenting Communication Tools: Our Selection of Books to Explain Divorce to Children

co-parenting books - 2houses

When co-parents decide to end their relationship, it is not always easy to know how to tell the children. For families, the divorce process involves an ongoing conversation. The adjustment period for adults and children is uncharted territory and won’t be without bumps along the way.

Several authors have tried to make the transition easier with guides to talking to your kids about divorce. Suitable for a variety of ages, these volumes give you and your children some ways to deal with the emotions that come with a change to their way of life. You can read many of these with your kids. Or offer them as a resource to your children while they begin to make sense of these changes.

“Dinosaurs Divorce” by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (1988)

It can be tough for preschoolers and very young children to understand divorce, especially if they don’t know anyone else who’s going through it. In “Dinosaurs Divorce,” the prehistoric character is navigating the same territory as the child. The young dinosaur talks about some things that may happen after divorce, such as around the holidays and when living arrangements change.

“Two Homes” by Claire Masurel (2003)

The concept behind “Two Homes” is pretty simple: a seven-year-old boy figures that, with his parents living separately, he will have more of everything he loves. Two places to call home, two bedrooms, two kitchens and with family always nearby. This takes a positive approach to new living arrangements in order for kids to gain a different perspective on what can be a difficult period of time.

“Divorce Is Not the End of the World” by Zoe and Evan Stern (2008)

This book, aimed at older children over the age of about eight, was written by teenagers who have experienced divorce. It is practical as well as sensitive, addressing common emotions kids go through during transition. It talks about how day-to-day life might change, with the introduction of step-siblings and stepparents, and homes with different rules.

“A Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parents’ Divorce” by Nancy Holyoke (2009)

Laid out a bit like a workbook, the “Smart Girl’s Guide” acknowledges that life can change many times for the child of divorce. There is often the initial separation, then remarriage. Packed with advice from other preteens, the book also makes learning fun with quizzes and easy-to-understand tips. Check out the “Girl’s Bill of Rights” that’s included as a handy cut-out.

“It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear” by Vicki Lansky (1997)

As is evidenced by the title, “Koko Bear” is about dealing with the emotions of divorce. Written for three to seven-year-olds who may not yet be used to expressing how they feel. The book is as much a guide for parents as children. With this volume, you can help pinpoint what your child is feeling and help them to recognize and address those emotions in themselves.

Divorce is often a challenging transition for parents and children. It’s an uncertain time that comes with many unknowns. For children who desire a sense of security and predictability, it may be particularly stressful. These books are designed to help open the lines of communication so children know that no matter what happens, their parents have their well-being as their top priority.

 

Divorce With Kids: How Do You Explain It to Them?

divorce with kids - 2houses

Perhaps one of the most challenging conversations you’ll have as a separating parent is with your children. Throughout their lives, you’ve made their wellbeing a priority. Coming to them with news of your breakup may be emotionally devastating. But regardless of how well you know your children, their reactions may still surprise you. Try to keep the conversation age-appropriate. Remind your children that their parents’ divorce does not mean the loss of their family.

Have the Conversation as a Family

Your children should all be part of the conversation. Try to sit down with your spouse and all of your kids at the same time to discuss the divorce. By presenting a united front with your spouse, you minimize tension and prevent feelings of resentment towards one parent or the other. You want to reassure your children the break up is not their fault and that they will remain loved. The feeling of togetherness of a group talk supports this idea that they are not losing the people closest to them.

Prepare Your Main Messages Beforehand

In the moment, you may forget to tell your children what they most need to hear. That’s why you and your spouse should jot down the key things you want to say. In part, this can be things such as, “we have tried to fix our problems, but it hasn’t worked,” “you will always be loved, now just in two houses instead of one,” “we are still a family even though we no longer live together” and “you didn’t do anything to cause this to happen.” You can introduce them to the 2houses site and explain how the family will remain connected.

Remain Aware of Your Child’s Concerns

The age of your children determines how they see the world. As a result, what worries them most will depend on their stage of development. A preschooler is still largely dependent on her parents and may need reassurance they will still be fed, cared for and played with. As kids get a bit older, they are more aware of their feelings. They may have important social connections outside the family, so they may be concerned about moving or going to a new school.

Listen Actively to Their Questions

The conversation should leave ample time for questions. You may have to encourage your children, whatever their age, to ask whatever is on their minds. These questions may provide greater insight into your children’s world and may bring up issues you have not yet resolved. Your children may ask anything from what caused the breakup to whether the siblings will still live together and where the pets will reside. Be honest, but don’t overwhelm children with too much information. Always circle back to key issues of support, comfort and reassurance regardless of the challenging questions.

Keep the Conversation Going

After you’ve told your children that you are going to divorce, there will be a transition period of many months. Depending on the circumstances, you and your spouse may continue to live together for a period of time or one spouse may move out immediately. It may be a while before co parenting schedules are finalized, placing additional uncertainty and stress on the children. Using 2houses, the family can start to work out the details of new schedules and find out what works for everyone.

Because these changes directly impact your children’s day-to-day lives, it’s essential to do what you can to maintain their stability. Make them feel safe and reassure them you are always available to talk about what’s going on. Together, you can ease into your new lives while helping your children maintain their emotional health. In an ideal world, all they need to worry about is growing up.

Joint Custody Schedules: Should Your Child Have Input?

joint custody schedules - 2houses

You already know that communication between you and your ex is critical for successful co-parenting. When do you need to start looping your child into the conversation, too? Opinions range from wanting children to get extensive input as early as the preteen years to believing that only the parents and judge should have any input. If you’re wondering if it’s time to ask your child about joint custody schedules and time sharing, here are three factors to consider.

1. The Age of the Child

In general, the older the child, the more say they have on the schedule. This is because they’re better able to navigate their relationship with each respective parent, and thoughtfully and respectively express their wishes. Practically, the older your children are, the more likely they are to be involved in extracurricular activities, sports and social events that the joint custody schedule has to consider and work around.

2. The Maturity of the Child

The number of years your child has been on the planet doesn’t always match up with their emotional maturity. It’s important to consider your child’s motivations and thought processes before just going along with what they want. For example, an angry teenager who decides she wants to go live with their mom after being grounded for sneaking out probably shouldn’t carry the same weight as a child who explains they don’t get to see their dad as much as they’d like to and asks if they could have an extra overnight.

3. Your State’s Laws

Every state has different guidelines on when and if a child’s wishes come into play in deciding a joint custody schedule. In some states, like West Virginia, the judge strongly considers the wishes of the child after a certain age (in this state, it’s 14), but most states simply leave “the best wishes of the children” as the most important deciding factor. Therefore, whether or not the child gets a say is determined by whether the judge thinks the child’s wishes also match their best interests.
If your child is starting to express a preference for living with one parent over the other or wants more say in the joint custody schedule, it’s never a bad thing to listen to their thoughts and ask questions so you can learn more about why they feel this way. However, the final decision still rests with the parents (or the judge, if you can’t agree), and 2houses provides a platform to facilitate open communication between you and the other parent as you see if adjustments need to be made.