By: Sarah T. McCain
When you begin the process of dividing parenting time between two homes, everyday tasks often take on different challenges. This would include, but is not limited to, dealing with the different professionals that assist you and your children, such as their pediatrician, counselors, and teachers. It is important to make sure these professionals have the very best impression of you as a parent, as it may become important should their role become a point of conflict, or should they be called to testify in court.
First, in dealing with your child’s medical care, it’s important to be involved. During many marriages, one parent deals with the care of the child(ren), notifying the other parent at the conclusion of any appointments. When a divorce is filed, we often see one parent left out and struggling to become involved. This parent is often waiting to receive the notices that they were used to receiving, only to become frustrated with the lack of information that they receive. Sometimes, that parent may also be accused of being an uninvolved or disinterested parent. The best way to not only receive vital information, but to also make a good impression on the court as to your involvement, is to be proactive. Find out when appointments are scheduled and try to attend. If you are unable to attend, ask for a report following the appointment. Pursuant to Colorado statute, C.R.S. 14-10-123.8, each parent is entitled to receive information from doctors, schools, etc.
In speaking with medical professionals, it has been expressed that they would rather have both parents at appointments. This makes the transfer of information a much more efficient process for them, as opposed to having to track down both parents if such is necessary. If a decision is required as part of the appointment, it can be frustrating for the physician to mediate a decision between the parties by phone. When a divorce matter involves medical issues, or one parent is arguing that the other is not involved in the medical care of their child, it can be helpful to have the physician on your side. If need be, this individual can prepare a report and testify. They might also be called to testify as to your behavior or demeanor tied into your child or your care of the child. Therefore, it’s important that they see your face and know of your active, productive involvement.
Second, schools and teachers can also be a source of conflict for parents. Schools are well versed in dealing with divorcing couples or couples going through a custody battle. They can be very efficient in ensuring that both parties receive the same information. However, relying on the school or the other parent to be the messenger can often result in missed notices. Therefore, once again, it’s in both your and your child’s interests to be as proactive as you can when it comes to school matters. Make sure that the teacher knows your name and can speak to your level of involvement. For example, parents sometimes argue that the other parent should not have weekday time due to their lack of involvement with the school and homework during the week. Arguments of this nature can be easily diffused when a teacher can testify that you are involved and concerned about your child’s education. As a Denver family law attorney, I have seen multiple instances in which one parent tries to suck teachers into a case, whether to testify as to lack of involvement or to comment on a parent’s behavior. Remember, being involved also involves putting your best foot forward at every interaction. That best foot includes not barraging teachers or school staff with the travails of your divorce. They don’t want to hear it.
With most professionals in the life of your child, being involved and trying to make it as easy as possible for that professional to provide the information they believe you should have is key to making sure that your child gets the care he or she needs. Behaving appropriately with any of these professionals, including shielding them from the divorce conflict, benefits both you and your child. You never know when a doctor, physician’s assistant, or teacher might be called to testify at a hearing. I know I have had to subpoena plenty over the years.