Understanding Custody And School Calendars in Wake County

Juggling the complexities of custody can be challenging, especially when different school schedules are at play. It’s important to understand how these arrangements might impact your day-to-day life and vice versa so that you can take the proper steps to ensure a smooth transition for your children in the midst of divorce or even after, when custody schedules need to be adjusted to fit changing school schedules. While divorce is a significant change for you, it’s just as tough for your kids. It’s crucial to recognize the effect these changes can have on their daily lives and provide them with the support they need, especially when it comes to their education.

North Carolina’s School Schedules Can Make Custody Complicated

In Wake County, North Carolina, many schools follow a “year-round” schedule for elementary and middle school-aged children. High schoolers are on a traditional schedule. A year-round school schedule in Wake County is organized by four “tracks.” At any time during the year, three tracks are in session, while the fourth track is on a three-week break. The idea is for students to be in school for nine weeks and then off for three.

While students who attend a year-round school get the same amount of time off as students who follow a traditional calendar, the different tracks can make matters like custody much more complicated. For parents who are separated or divorced, coordinating schedules around a year-round school calendar can prove to be extremely challenging. The staggered breaks throughout the year require careful planning and consideration, which can be hard to manage, especially if your co-parent is uncooperative or inconsistent.

Matters can become even more complex when organizing your custody arrangement around school calendars if you have two children on two different schedules. For instance, since high schoolers are always on a traditional calendar, having a younger sibling who attends a year-round school can make it difficult to meet the needs and balance the routines of both children. In a situation like this, it’s important that both children get sufficient time with each parent, which requires clear communication and flexibility.

5 Tips To Make The School Year Easier For You And Your Children 

No matter what school calendar your children are on, navigating the year as a separated or divorced parent can be hard for you and your kids. Below are 5 tips that can help make the school year easier for all.

1 – Understand The School Calendar 

Whether your children attend a year-round or traditional school, being familiar with the school calendar is crucial, especially if they changed schools due to your separation or divorce. The calendar for each type of school might change slightly every year, so it’s imperative to communicate with the other parent to ensure that one of you (or childcare) is available on their days off. This will require coordination and advance planning. Since viewing the calendar on your phone can be confusing, we recommend printing it out, translating the information into your own terms, and transferring it to your preferred calendar.

If you and your co-parent are on amicable terms, a shared calendar is the best way to ensure you’re both informed about your children’s upcoming events and routines. This calendar can include plans not only for school but also for holidays, extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, recitals, sports games, and more, allowing each of you to know what is happening and who your children will be with. You can also share this calendar with nannies, grandparents, and other caretakers involved in your children’s lives.

For parents in Wake County, North Carolina, you can view a traditional calendar for Wake County schools here, and a year-round calendar here. Staying informed and organized with these resources will help facilitate the coordination of custody and school schedules, making transitions smoother for everyone involved.

2 – When The School Schedule Makes Holidays Difficult, Do Your Best To Ensure All Kids Get Time With Both Parents. 

In a perfect world, you and your co-parent would share time with your children on every single holiday. In a perfect world, you might’ve stayed together and never even had to create a custody arrangement and detailed schedules in the first place. However, the reality of divorce means navigating complications like your children’s school schedules, making holidays even more difficult.

We recommend doing your best to divide time with your children in the most equitable manner possible, ensuring that they have ample time to spend with both parents outside of school. Additionally, we recommend avoiding separating your children whenever feasible, as sibling bonding time is also crucial for their well-being.

3 – Be Proactive – Be Prepared – Plan Ahead

When it comes to balancing custody and school schedules, it’s so important to be proactive in your planning. Currently, the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 school calendars for Wake County are available here. Reviewing these calendars now gives you the opportunity to be proactive with your children’s schedules and coordinate drop-offs, pickups, vacations, and more. This can prevent you and your co-parent from being caught off guard or struggling to make last-minute arrangements. Being prepared for your share of parenting responsibilities involves understanding and anticipating your children’s needs.

4 – Be Flexible 

Circumstances can change unexpectedly for you, your co-parent, or your children. There may come a day when your co-parent needs you to pick up the kids from school on their assigned day due to unforeseen circumstances. While this might disrupt your plans, there may also come a day when you require the same help. Flexibility is key in such situations. It can strengthen your relationship with your co-parent and reassure your children that, despite being separated, their well-being remains a priority for both of you.

While change is inevitable, we recommend establishing contingencies when creating your custody arrangement. This ensures that if the school schedule or other circumstances change, you won’t have to resort to going back to court or revisiting mediation.

If you and your co-parent just cannot get along, it’s possible that the court will appoint a parenting coordinator. This is someone you pay who helps you resolve scheduling conflicts or understand any interpretation issues with your court order.

At Triangle Smart Divorce, we prefer to handle matters like this before they become a problem. We can incorporate specific provisions into your custody consent orders or separation agreements that address scheduling for children on both traditional and year-round school calendars. For instance, if two children follow different calendars, we include language stipulating that the traditional calendar takes precedence, as there is typically an overlap with a summer vacation or holiday break between the two types of calendars.

5 – The Biggest Bottom Line – Support Your Kids

At the end of the day, your children and their health and well-being are what matters most. It’s important to provide them with as much stability and security as possible in the wake of your separation or divorce. When parents are at each other’s throats, it’s the kids who suffer the most. Don’t allow your children to be swept up in a power struggle between you and your co-parent. A few tactics to help ensure maximum support for your kids include:

  • Creating a simplified calendar that they can see daily.
  • Checking in with them weekly to discuss upcoming events and what they can expect their days to look like.
  • Framing a schedule around their needs, not yours.
  • Being consistent with routines as much as possible.

How Triangle Smart Divorce Can Help You

At Triangle Smart Divorce, we have decades of experience with North Carolina’s school calendars. We know how complicated matters can get for separating or divorcing parents, but we also know how to come up with an arrangement that works. If you need assistance creating a custody arrangement that prioritizes your children’s well-being (which includes putting their schooling first), our custody lawyers are here to help. Call now to request a consultation where we can discuss your options, rights, and responsibilities. Let’s cut any potential for drama out of the equation and focus on what’s best for your kids.