COVID-19 & Back-To-School Season: What Happens When Parents Don’t Agree?

Top Chicago Family Attorney Says A Contingency Plan Is A Must For Co-Parents

The stress and constantly changing information surrounding COVID-19 and back to school is enough to drive any parent crazy. But what happens if the parents are separated or divorced and disagree about what educational environment is best for the kids? What if one parent wants to homeschool while the other feels it’s safe to send them back to the classroom? Even for separated and divorced parents who have successfully cooperated in the past, this year’s back to school season will bring upon a new set of struggles as the two households face a new challenge. Shedding light on how to best navigate this uncharted journey is leading Chicago-based divorce and matrimonial lawyer Tiffany Hughes of The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes. As you, your ex, and your child prepare for the upcoming school year, there are a few things you should consider:

Does the child have any specific health concerns that could lead to them being compromised in a traditional school setting?

Some children are more likely to get very sick from coronavirus, specifically those with health conditions or weakened immune systems. If your child has a health problem or lives with someone in a high-risk group, weigh the risk of your child bringing germs home from the classroom and consult with a doctor to help you decide.

What is in the child’s best interest from an emotional and social perspective?

Schools provide more than just academics to children and adolescents. In addition to education, students gain additional benefits from a classroom setting that cannot be provided via online learning. The in-person model allows for children to have social and emotional skills, get exercise, and have access to mental health support and other services that may not be accessible in the household. It’s important to communicate openly with your child about and help them identify the positives of each learning experience.

What type of support could either parent / home offer in a homeschooling situation?

What is each parent’s work schedule like? Would new third-party childcare be needed? For many families, e-learning has turned the parents into teacher, counselor, cafeteria worker, and principal, all while attempting to do their own work and daily responsibilities. Children need safe spaces, reduced distractions, mental and physical breaks, social interactions, and basic needs like access to the internet and healthy meals to have a positive learning experience. Being a child’s parent and teacher can bring upon many mental, physical, and emotional stressors, and not every household is designed to function as a child’s learning environment. Conversely, home learning has given other parents the opportunity to spend more time with their child.

What specific safety precautions is YOUR school district taking?

Every part of the country is handling back-to-school season a little differently. It’s important to find out the details of your child’s local school system. There are a number of steps schools should take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A few of those steps include practicing social distancing, enforcing face masks and hand hygiene, routine disinfections, temperature checks, and strategic classroom changes.

If you choose to homeschool, should you hire a tutor or teacher?

For parents in a position to provide assisted learning and help for their child, hiring help to assist in education can help mitigate learning gaps and “falling behind.” Kids are also more likely to take criticisms from their parents as personal slights, and stress has proven to hinder effective learning. However, teaching style, dependability, cost, and safety need to be taken into consideration when hiring the right tutor. Some parents may alternatively turn to finding a suitable “pandemic pod”–a small group of families that agree to do supplementary learning or complete at-home coursework together by either sharing a tutor or supervision among parents.

Should your child participate in their usual after-school sports, activities and playdates with other children?

Studies show that interaction with other children, daily exercise, and routine can help a child’s development and mental health. Incorporating after-school sports and playdates, although beneficial for a child, can increase the risk of exposure. Those opting into after-school activities and sports should prepare their children by reminding them to stay mindful of the safety precautions such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, small group activities, and face masks (if feasible).

It’s unlikely that any co-parenting agreement would have stipulations regarding a pandemic so if the parents are unable to negotiate something between them regarding their child’s education path, it’s time for an officer of the court to step in.

If there’s one thing we know for sure about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we never know what could happen next. To that end, it’s recommended that co-parents who do decide to send their kids back into the classroom now come up with a contingency plan.  Consulting with an attorney who specializes in family matters now could save you a lot of time, frustration and difficulty down the road.  What if there is an outbreak in your child’s classroom?  What if the government shuts schools down again–as they did in the spring? Having an agreed-upon plan of action will help curb anxiety and make a complicated situation much easier.

About The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes: Located in Chicago, IL, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is an elite law firm that concentrates solely on Family and Matrimonial Law matters. Under the leadership of a renowned attorney and founding partner, Tiffany M. Hughes, the firm represents individuals in all aspects of Family law proceedings including divorce, mediation, parentage, child custody, orders of protection, and all matters that arise after the parties are divorced. A modern, tech savvy firm, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is a company built on passion, experience, personalized service, and innovative thinking.

Ms. Hughes has developed a stellar reputation for her ability to successfully manage High Asset Divorces. This niche typically pertains to clients with a high net worth, multiple streams of income and/or a complicated portfolio of holdings. Her expertise in this area has resulted in her representing numerous public figures, including professional athletes and CEO’s. Ms. Hughes has received many awards and achievements for her work as an Attorney in Family Law, including but not limited to, Top 100 Lawyers in the United States by Lawyers Magazine, Super Lawyer Rising Star, Top 10 Family Law Attorney in Illinois, Top 40 Attorneys under 40 in Family Law, Client Choice award on Avvo, Top Divorce Attorney on Avvo, and 10 best client satisfaction award.

Unlike many other law firms, The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes limits the number of cases they take on at any given time to ensure that all clients receive the utmost care, personalized attention and dedicated focus to their specific situation. Operating under the mantra “life is no rehearsal,” Tiffany M. Hughes and her team not only offer clients practical and effective legal representation but also help them move forward into a new, happier chapter of their lives. She also offers appointments via video.

The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes is located at 22 W. Washington St. Suite 1500 in Chicago, IL. For more information please call (773) 893-0228 or visit