by Zonder Family Law Group
Numerous studies have suggested that children whose parents go through a divorce can suffer more negative consequences to their education after a divorce than those with parents whose marriages are intact. This can be the result of the effects of the divorce itself, or it may point to underlying problems that contributed to both the divorce and the educational issues (e.g., a parent who has long-running issues with drug abuse or who is incarcerated). Some of the correlations that researchers have found between children of divorce and their education include lower rates of college attendance, lower rates of graduation from high school, and higher incidences of being held back a grade for children of divorce.
Frankly, however, the findings of studies done on this topic can seem contradictory, or at least inconsistent, and other factors such as race and socioeconomic status certainly play a part. And, of course, every family and every child is different. But it is without question that a divorce will be a disruptive factor in a child’s life – potentially for better or for worse – and that the educational life of a child is often where we can see the difficult adjustment of a divorce play out.
Based on both research findings and experiential evidence, there are several approaches to your child’s education to keep in mind during and following a divorce.
How You and Your Coparent Relate to One Another Affects Your Child and Their Education
Obviously not all parents with an intact marriage do a great job of supporting their children’s education, but the factors of a supportive intact marriage that children of divorce can miss out on include discussion amongst the whole family about school, participation in parent-teacher conferences and school activities by both parents, and greater resources to devote to the children’s education when both parents are living under the same roof.
In a divorce, parents can lose sight of all these things and ignore how their own “divorce battle” is affecting the children and specifically their education. When parents devolve into a bitter fight over property and financial support (or the custody of the children themselves), it can become hard for them to work together to meaningfully support their children’s education.
It is important to get a fair outcome in a divorce and not be taken advantage of, but it’s even more important to keep your eye on the big picture of your family and your children’s future as you navigate a divorce and in the years after. In the end, you can only control your own actions, but you can take steps to explore methods to resolve your divorce and your ongoing resentments with a copartner that will help you to work together to support your children’s educational life, even if it means making some sacrifices along the way and swallowing some pride for your children’s benefit.
You May Need to Be More Involved in Your Child’s Education Than Before
Again, as much as you try to amicably relate to an ex-spouse/co-parent, you can only control your side of the street. And, in the end, your children will not have the benefit of both parents being there on any given Tuesday night to both provide their unique abilities to help their child with a science fair project or a college application.
Thus, you should likely be prepared to be more involved in your child’s education than you were prior to the divorce, particularly if you were a parent who may have been more focused on “breadwinning” and had left managing the children’s education to the other parent. If you had never gone to a parent-teacher conference or to chaperone an orchestra trip before, now is your time. If you did not know the names of the children’s teachers, their friends, or the parents of their friends before because the other parent did, taking the time to do that now will likely better help you support your child’s educational journey.
This all takes time of course which may take time away from work or your own pursuits, but, for many parents whose children have already gone off to college and/or moved out of the house, they realize that time with their kids during their school-age years is time that never comes back, so it is not something to put off.
Ask For Help and Encourage Other Adults to Participate in Your Child’s Education
Although you may feel very alone after a divorce in trying to manage your child’s education, the truth is that you are not alone. There are many others in your shoes, and there are many people out there who will be willing to aid and support – but often you do need to ask for and/or go seek out that support.
One way is to join parent groups at the children’s school such as PTA groups or booster groups for sports, theater, music, and other extracurricular activities. These are other parents who care about their children’s educational life, and they can help carry the load, offer advice and insights, and at the very least help you understand that supporting your child is not completely, 100% on you at all times.
Let others in your life know that you could use their support and help them find ways to contribute to your child’s education. This could be family members, neighbors, people from your religious community or other organizations you belong to, and it can also be a new partner. Having a new stepmother and stepfather can be difficult for a child, but it can often be extremely helpful for a child to have a third (or fourth) adult in their life to help support them. But other adults may not always feel comfortable or welcome to support your child, unless you make it clear that you would like the help and what suggestions you have for doing so.
Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions from a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.