Parents may joke about all the school forms they have to fill out at the start of each school year but for many parents those forms are no laughing matter. It's not the forms themselves but rather being left off of them that can cause anguish for many adults who co-parent.
When a parent is left off of school forms, it hurts. It is a tangible reminder of the little control they have over situations regarding their children. If the excluded parent is remarried, chances are their spouse won't make the form either. This can be equally painful for a stepmom or stepdad who cares for the children but is often not considered important enough to be listed as a parent or guardian.
Sometimes parents are excluded on purpose and other times it's the function of the forms themselves or an oversight. When a parent chooses to use the school forms to exert their power and hurt the other parent, the person who truly looses is the child.
Both Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents Should Be Listed On School Forms
Unless the law denies a parent access to a child, both parents should be listed on school informational forms regardless of whether they are the custodial or non-custodial parent. A non-custodial parent may not have primary custody of their child but they still have rights as a parent.
I recently heard from a non-custodial mother who went to her son's school to pick him up early for her weekend and was not granted access to him because she was not listed on the forms. After a call to her ex-husband she was able to take him. This mother knew her ex-husband didn't purposely leave her off the list but rather excluded her because she lives a few hours away and wouldn't make a good "emergency" contact. This mother's heart ached as she could see her son waiting in the office but was not granted access to him until the father could be reached.
Many stepmothers have shared with me the pain their husbands have experienced when they find out that not only were they excluded from the school forms but the mothers of the children either listed their new husband or boyfriend as the biological father. Ouch!
A parent's dislike for their ex or their ex's new spouse, does not give them the right to leave the other parent off the forms.
Tips If You Are Left Off School Forms:
Go Straight To The School - Don't engage the other household. If you have a legal right to your child, you have the right to be on all the paperwork. If the other parent purposely left you off, they did so for a personal reason and going after them will yield nothing but anger and frustration.
Take Advantage Of Technology. Utilize the calendar, teacher contact information, student activities, etc... that most schools list online. A school's website may also include an online homework center and progress book where you can check your child's assignments and grades.
Do Not Speak Negatively About The Other Parent In Front Of The Child. Regardless of how you feel, you should never put your children in the middle of a co-parenting issue by speaking negatively about their other parent. Kids don't make co-parenting decisions and they shouldn't have to pay the price when one parent makes a bad one.
Give The Benefit Of The Doubt. If you are left off the forms, give the other home the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it truly was an oversight. Many school system's forms haven't caught up with the needs of non-traditional families. Best bet is to rectify the situation by going straight to the school.
Don't Take It Personally. You may not be listed on a piece of paper but that doesn't negate the role you play in your child's life. When a parent purposely leaves the other parent off of school forms, it typically has more to do with the insecurity of the parent who is excluding rather than with the parent who is not listed. A piece of paper does not define your relationship with your child - YOU do.
Don't despair if you were left off the forms this year, you can correct the situation with the school if you have a legal right to your children.
Have you ever been left off of your child's school forms? Have you ever purposely left your child's other parent off of a school form? Would love to hear your thoughts.