1. Teachers, private or public, are not in the business of enforcing custody or domestic relations disputes.
You would not believe how often this is a problem. School is the focal point of most children’s days from age 5 to 18. Almost every scheduling matter and activity revolves around it, and nearly every decision made by the child during those years, from the type of clothes they wear to the friends they choose to the activities they engage in, is shaped by its rules and boundaries, boundaries enforced for the most part by teachers. Because so much of a child’s life focuses around school and related activities, disputes in the domestic relations arena frequently arise in the school context. Examples of such disputes include what classes the child takes, what activities they participate in, and how the child spends their time after school ends. Where disputing parents frequently deviate from rational thinking is when they imagine school teachers and administrators wearing black robes and holding a gavel.
Teachers and administrators do not dress this way. They do not dress this way because teachers are not judges. Judges enforce custody arrangements, not teachers. You can shout at Billy’s science teacher until you are blue in the face, but they are still probably not going to do anything when your ex picks Billy up. If your child(ren)’s other parent is not abiding by a court order, talk to your attorney and file for contempt, don’t go after the home-ec teacher managing the crosswalk.
2. Always present a united front when it comes to your child’s education.
I know this is WAY easier said than done, but at the very least read the above caption sixteen more times before continuing with the article… Now that that’s done, here is a tip on how to accomplish this.
Schedule a time to speak with your ex about you child(ren)’s school/wellbeing at least once a week. You might be thinking “good, we already do that,” but most exes don’t actually schedule such conversations, only speaking when some issue/incident comes up. Having a regularly scheduled time, even for just 10 minutes, can lend objective perspective. Also, you all will consistently know where each other stand, rather than waiting for a conflict to arise from different opinions on how to respond to an incident (i.e. poor grades, inappropriate behavior, etc.). You will already know how you and your spouse plan to respond, and do not have to worry about a divided discipline situation. Sitting down for a coffee or a conversation at an extracurricular you both go to (sports practices, art classes, etc.) would be ideal, but sometimes that can be very uncomfortable. In those circumstances, talking to your ex over the telephone after a conversation with your kids can work equally well.
3. Establish your Child(ren)’s Teachers as Neutral Masters of their Respective Universes
Two big things here: First, nothing can jeopardize your child’s academic success like undermining their teachers. If you disagree with a teacher’s teaching, curriculum, behavior towards your child, discipline techniques, etc, speak with the teacher and/or the appropriate administrator. If none of these avenues prove productive, you may need to look at the option of switching schools or electing private education.
The second part of this is to not attempt to enlist your child’s teachers in a dispute with your ex. Not only will this almost certainly make the teacher uncomfortable in general, but it will make them less comfortable/likely to share their opinions on what is best for your child, fearing you will use it as ammunition in your dispute with your ex. Also, saying things to your child like “your teachers agree with me, but we can’t do X because of your Mother/Father” only discredits you and your ex as parental figures. Do enough of that and get ready for your children to try to play you and your ex off one another.
Having a perfect relationship with your child’s teachers is hard enough when you and your ex were one legal entity, and ending a marriage can make a united front of mom, dad, and teacher very difficult, but if you follow the advice listed above, it should be a little easier.