Co-parenting in a divorce or separate couple | L&ML Lawyers

School Nights: Shenanigans vs. Sleep

January 15, 2020
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain

Co-parenting in a divorce or separate couple

When handling effective co-parenting in a divorce, there are a number of obstacles that could arise. One issue that comes up on numerous occasions is the types of events or activities that a child attends during one person’s parenting time.

While one parent may think a Major League Playoff game is worth a child being sleepy for fourth grade the next day, another parent may disagree, which could cause numerous issues between parties who are trying to effectively co-parent children. It is never a great idea to set up a situation where one parent is doing the “fun” activities because it causes the other parent to become the disciplinarian.

This will just cause more issues between parents and more problems between them in the future. When it comes to considering if a child should attend a special event with a parent, there are several items that need to be taken into consideration. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your child’s need for sleep is dependent on his or her age. Children between the age of 3 to 5 typically need to sleep 10 to 13 hours each night, and a child from 5 to 12 years old usually needs to sleep about 10 to 11 hours per night.

Therefore, plans for a sporting event or social activity (like a Broadway show) that do not start till 8:00 p.m. may not be in the best interest of your child, especially if it takes place on a school night.

While the event may be important to you and something you want to experience with your child, you have to take into consideration the amount of sleep the child will end up getting and how it will affect them and their performance in school the next day.

In order to make the appropriate decision on whether you should bring your child to a special event, here are three tips to consider when assessing the situation:

  1. Importance of Sleep Routine

The National Sleep Foundation explains that it is important for children to have a regular sleep schedule so that they perform optimally at school. When a child gets a sufficient amount of sleep, it is easier for the child to pay attention in school, retain information and think of new ideas. It is also better for a child’s immune system and overall behavior when he or she is not struggling through the day due to being overtired.

Parents should work together to ensure that the child has a well-rehearsed bedtime routine that can be followed regardless of what home the child is spending the night. By ensuring that the child has a well-rehearsed bedtime routine and that the child goes to bed at a reasonable hour, parents will make sure that the child gets a solid night’s sleep and can perform their best in school. While a bed-time routine and a solid block of sleep are optimal for children, this by no means that a child can never attend a special event. Parents are allowed to create special memories with their children, even when it is a school night.

However, it would be in both the best interest of the children, as well as the parents, to make sure that “special events,” are indeed special, i.e. a rare event, rather than the norm. While a child of any age can “bounce” back from one night of insufficient sleep, it should not be the normal practice. That means that the parents who have season tickets to sporting events may want to reconsider foregoing purchasing a season’s worth of tickets when a child is young and the games are usually going to fall during that parent’s parenting time.

2. Take the entire schedule into consideration

When it comes to deciding whether it is a good idea to take your child or children to a “special,” event, you must take all of the specifics of the plan into consideration. Do not simply think to yourself “Game starts at 8. He or she will sleep on the way home.”

Instead think how long a game or the event will actually last, how long it will take to get to your car, how long it will be to travel home and when the child will actually get to sleep. If it is a particularly important event, like a rivalry between teams that you would not want to miss a minute of, then you need to be aware of the fact that a game could go into extra innings, extra periods, etc. If that is the case, you need to sit and carefully contemplate what extra innings could mean for your particular child. Often times, if a child is at an exciting event, he or she may not be able to sleep in the car.

If you are lucky enough that your child can sleep in the car on the way home, remember that if a child “naps,” in a car, the child may “get a second wind,” when they get home, which means both you and the children will have a long night ahead of you. It also means that the child may not be able to wake up to get to school on time or be able to concentrate in school.

When making these types of plans, make sure that you have looked at the school calendar before purchasing tickets. If there is some type of standardized testing or some type of test the next day, then it may not be a wise decision to have your child out late the evening before. If a child does not get the appropriate amount of sleep, it will be hard for him or her to get through the day, especially if they have other plans for afterschool. You should also consider both the children’s school schedule, as well as their schedule after school the next day.

If a child has religious schooling or some type of activity after school the next day, it will be even more difficult for that child to make it to his or her pre-planned activities after a day of struggling through school.  If your child is enrolled in an athletic club or activity, he or she will also have trouble participating if he or she has not had a sufficient amount of sleep the night before.

3. Communicate with the Other Parent

The most important aspect in considering whether you should bring your child to a special event is making the determination with the other parent. With any effective co-parenting in a divorce situation, regardless of your marital status, it is important to talk to the other parent. This is even truer when it comes to parents who are separated, divorced, etc.

The legal system is set up to always take the “best interest of the child,” into consideration. This causes a lot of friction between parents when each parent genuinely believes that he or she is the only one who takes the best interest of the child into consideration.

The best thing that you can do for your child when making any type of decision, is to weigh the options, benefits, consequences with the other parent. If you both come to an agreement that while your child may miss a few hours of sleep, it is worth it for one particular special event, then no one can fault you because the two of you came to that decision together.

However, if you choose to make a decision unilaterally without considering the other parent’s thoughts and opinions, a Court may not look at your decision to bring a child to an event on a school night that favorably, especially if it means the other parent is going to question your parenting choices.

In essence, it is always wise that both parents make these types of decisions when co-parenting in a divorce. Even if you disagree, it is in your child’s best interest to make sure you are having these conversations with the other parent. Even if there is a special event that you really want to attend, part of being a parent is making sacrifices for the benefit of your children. There are numerous opportunities to make special memories with your children at special events. As always, as a parent, you should your best judgment and make your decision based on what would be in the child’s best interest.

For more information on family law, contact our New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC.