I received a horrifying call from my husband a few days ago about our youngest child:
“The school just emailed me. His real mother is there!”
The principal allowed a woman who has not had regular contact with this child in years and lives a state away to place herself on the emergency contact list and almost check him out of school without any notice to the primary parent, my husband.
How could this absent mother do this?
It doesn’t matter if the absent parent has followed your child custody/visitation agreement or not when it comes to the school system. All she had to do was bring the court order to the school stating that she had “x” rights to the child. The school will not question a legal document regardless of what the situation is.
My husband went to the school and explained that she was a flight risk. She had already fled the country once and had not had regular contact with the child for over three years. He also explained that this was a very odd attempt by this woman. She has a history of not taking her medications and could be a direct danger to the child.
The response of the school
Because my husband had not went back to court to have the original custody agreement changed when the child’s mother was in contempt of the order, the school had to follow the original agreement.
Even though the original agreement stated word for word that my husband had custody of our son on the weekdays, the school would still allow his mother to visit regularly during the day and check him out on Fridays unless he could bring a legal document stating when her visitation hours began.
What to do!
If you are faced or will be facing a situation like this there are steps you can take to resolve the problems at school.
First and foremost you need to have ALL your legal documents in order and on file at your child’s school. If you still follow the original custody agreement make sure the wording doesn’t leave gaps for confusion of what the wording means. It will help if you have a document stating clear set visitation hours. This will help to stop the school from allowing an unauthorized check-out of your child by the absent parent.
One of the most important things to do is to keep the custody/visitation agreement up to date. I know that this often times involves lawyer and court fees, but it is for the protection of your child. If the other parent is not following the original agreement start documenting what is happening. Keep track of visitations that are missed, late pick-ups and returns, odd behaviors, lack of interest in the child’s well-being. If this is an ongoing problem, go back to court to have the order changed. A current copy of any signed and notarized agreement for the custody/visitation of your child should ALWAYS be kept on file at the school.
Schools do not want to be brought in the middle of a custody argument, regardless if you think your child is in danger or not.
What do schools suggest?
School administrators suggest that you have your paperwork in order and resolve parental conflicts in the court setting. They have to follow the standing court order regardless if the other parent is in direct contempt as long as what the absent parent is asking of them is stated in the standing court document they have access to.
If you suspect trouble from the absent parent, you should inform your child’s school. They suggest that keeping the child out for the day, in some cases, may be the best decision for you and your child. They will follow whatever the agreement says if faced with a decision to make on school property.
The best advice is that you should keep your custody agreement current. If you and the absent parent agree to change any aspect of it, get it in writing and notarized. Always make sure the school has the most current agreement so that you and your child’s best interests are always met when the school is faced with these issues.