Teacher and Student

SCRIPTS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH

Providers

Your Children's

Dealing with your children's health, education, and activities may be a bit more complicated when you're divorced. We went straight to the source to find out how to best communicate with these providers in a way that keep their focus on their kids.

 

1.

 Sharing your news with your child’s healthcare providers

THE SITUATION
 

You need to tell your child’s healthcare providers (pediatrician, dentist, orthodontist, etc.) about your divorce.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

To assure your change in family dynamics doesn't complicate or hinder your child’s healthcare. The goal is a seamless transition.

THE STRATEGY

Communicate your family situation in an appropriate way.  It’s important to give your child’s healthcare providers the information they need to know to best care for your child, but not more than is needed.  They need to be able to focus their attention on your child, and not be brought into the middle of your conflict. At an extreme, providers lose their ability to be effective and your child can suffer as a result.  

 

Also, be aware that what you discuss with your child’s doctor is not confidential. While it may be protected from disclosure to third parties by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it can be shared with the other parent. 

 

According to top-notch pediatrician Dr. Allison Koenig, these are the 5 main questions your child’s healthcare providers need answers to: 

 

  1. Is there a change in your family dynamics?
    Your pediatrician needs to know if your family’s situation is changing — whether that’s a trial separation, a divorce, or a remarriage.
     

  2. Will it be a “good” divorce?
    How you’re communicating as parents, whether you can be in the same room together, how are you interacting in front of your child, can you address issues directly or will everything go through lawyers.
     

  3. What have you decided about physical custody? 
    Is there a dispute? Your child’s doctor should know whether you’ve agreed on where your children will live and when they’ll see the other parent.
     

  4. Will one parent have final decision-making over your child’s healthcare? 
    If so, who? Your child’s healthcare provider needs to know who will make the decisions if there's a dispute.  If you have a court order, provide the office with a copy (just the relevant parts). And if this hasn't been worked out legally yet, how will you handle it until then — because this can confuse both the pediatrician and the child.
     

  5. Who is responsible for paying the bills? 
    Once you have an agreement and if it’s in a court order, share that information with your doctor’s billing department.

THE SCRIPTS 

  1. If it’s amicable

    Dr. Davis, I need to update you on our family situation. Harry and I have decided to separate. It’s amicable and we’ve agreed the kids will stay living in the house with me primarily.  We haven’t worked out the exact schedule yet. We told the kids last weekend and Harry is moving out on Friday.  If you have any recommendations for a good child counselor, please let me know. I think Jack could use someone to talk to about his feelings. Harry and I are going to share the children’s medical bills equally, but whoever brings them will pay you and we’ll take of reimbursing each other so you don’t have to be involved. Insurance and billing information will remain the same.

     

  2. If it’s less amicable

    Dr. Davis, I need to let you know what’s happened since we saw you last. Harry and I are getting a divorce. I’m hoping we can reach an agreement about the kids but so far we haven’t. He won’t move out so things are tense in the house. The kids have heard a lot of fighting lately and though we haven’t told them yet, I’m pretty sure they know what’s going on. I’d like to see a child psychologist to talk about the best way to tell them, so if you have any recommendations I’d appreciate it. Insurance and billing information will remain the same for now.

     

  3. If it’s not amicable

    Dr. Davis, I need to tell you what’s happening at home. Harry moved out a couple of weeks ago after telling both me and the kids on the same day that he's unhappy. I didn't have a chance to prepare them and they're really upset. They've seen me crying too. Jack won't talk about it at all. Izzie won't leave my side or sleep in her room. He’s only seen them once since he left and it was very uncomfortable. If you have any suggestions for what I can do to best help the kids, please let me know. I don’t know if there’s going to be a dispute over custody but I’ll update you once I know more. For now, everything with our contact and billing information should stay the same.

 

2.

Sharing your news with your child’s school

THE SITUATION
 

You’re separating and need to let your child’s school know.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

To provide the school the information they need so they can continue to best educate your child. To let the school know who has final decision-making if necessary.

THE STRATEGY 

Once you’ve told your children, it’s best to let the school know, so they can be on alert for grade and behavioral changes.  Focus on giving the school the information they need but not more than that.  Schools are regularly pulled into family disputes and hear way more than they should.

 

Many schools prefer that both parents be copied on communications and might add the other parent to the conversation if you don’t.  Be aware that what you say to the school isn’t confidential and can end up being shared with the other parent. So, act as if your ex is being “cc’d” on every communication, even if he isn’t.  If you wouldn’t be ok if he saw it, don’t send it. 

 

Here’s what is important for your child’s school to know:

 

  1. The change in family dynamics
    Especially the timing of when a parent is moving out of the house and other key events so they know to pay a little extra attention in the classroom during that time. 
     

  2. The schedule
    Schools want a copy of the actual schedule your child is following in their file, as a matter of safety so they know where your child is supposed to go. Also, make sure you update any changes to the pick-up list and emergency contacts. 
     

  3. Final decision-making
    Which one of you (or both) will be in charge of educational decisions.
     

  4. Payment
    If it’s a private school, who will be responsible, with updated contact and billing information if that is changing.

THE SCRIPTS

As you draft your communications, be sure to send the information needed (#1-4 above) to the appropriate personnel.  The financial department, not the teacher, needs to know who’s paying tuition, for example.


 

  1. To the teacher

    I wanted to let you know that Dan and I are going through a divorce. We told the kids last week. He’s moving out this weekend, so I thought you should be aware in case you notice any behavior changes in school. We are going to start with an alternating weekend schedule, but once we have a permanent schedule I’ll send you a copy.  Please keep copying both of us on the weekly emails. I’m going to speak to the school counselor as well in case the kids need to see her. We’re doing our best in this difficult situation and appreciate your help, especially during this time.

     

  2. To school admin/front desk

    Dan and I have decided to get a divorce. We told the children last week. We have agreed on a parenting plan, which is attached. If we disagree on any educational decisions, we're required to go to mediation before deciding. Dan's new address is below.  The kids will ride the bus to each of our homes on our designated weeks. Please let me know if I need to update the bus rider form so you know which bus they should get on each week. We aren’t making any changes to the pick-up or emergency contact list.  If there is anything else you need us to fill out, please let me know. Thanks very much for your help.


     

  3. To school admin/finance dept. (private school)

    Dan and I are going through a divorce. I’m attaching a copy of the portions of our Settlement Agreement that address the children and also the signature page.  Paragraph 3 has the custody provisions, including that if we disagree on an educational decision, I will be the tie-breaker. Also, whoever will have the children that evening will be responsible for picking them up from school that day and bringing them the next day. Paragraph 5 covers payment for private school. Dan will pay 70% and I will pay 30%. We would prefer to each send our share of the tuition payments directly to the school. Is there a way for you to divide the bills and send us each separate invoices? If that’s not possible, we’ll make arrangements for one of us to pay and we’ll reimburse each other directly. Thank you for your help during this time.

 

3.
Communicating with your child’s provider about an issue/concern

THE SITUATION 
 

You need to discuss an aspect of your child’s needs with the healthcare provider, and your ex disputes the issue or has a different version of events.

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 
To get your child the help needed without overly involving the provider in your family conflict or harming your child’s relationship with that provider.

THE STRATEGY

Keep your communications focused on your child’s needs.  Don’t point fingers. Your child’s provider doesn’t want to hear whose fault it is that your child was late to school or that you think your ex is an irresponsible parent. Providers who are forced into family drama aren’t happy about it, and your child could suffer as a result.  In extreme cases, with medical offices or private school, your family might not be welcomed back! In any case, talking about the other parent takes the provider’s focus off helping your child.

 

These scripts directly address the problem and seek a fix.  They are simple and solution-oriented. 

 

It’s a good idea to copy the other parent, especially if your parenting order requires joint communications, and ask the provider if she will put her recommendation in writing.

THE SCRIPTS 


 

  1. To the school about poor grades

    I'd like to have a meeting to discuss Jack's report card. His grades have suffered since our separation. I’d like to talk with you about what you are seeing in the classroom and how we can best work with him from our respective homes. I’ve copied his father so he can take part in that conversation.

     

  2. To the school about missed homework

    Thank you for letting us know that Jack didn’t turn in his project last week. We will work with him so that it doesn’t happen again.  Since we have two separate homes now, can we make sure that both parents are included on the class emails so that nothing else gets missed?


     

  3. To the orthodontist

    We're disagreeing about when to put Jamie in braces. Based on our last appointment, I understand that it’s time now, but David thinks you said we can wait another year. Please share your recommendation with us in writing. That way, we can make sure we’ve both heard the same thing and clear up any miscommunication about your opinion.


     

  4. To the pediatrician

    We've been talking for a while about whether it's time to medicate. I feel we've exhausted other efforts and would like to try it. John doesn’t agree. Would you be willing to write out what you see as our options and your recommendations at this time?  I think that would help us in reaching a decision.

 

4.

Communicating a final decision to your child’s provider

THE SITUATION 
 

You’ve disagreed with your (ex) spouse about a decision. Under your parenting plan, you have the right to make the final decision and are ready to communicate it to the provider.​

THE DESIRED OUTCOME
 

  • To make sure the provider has clear direction from you so she can best help your child. 

  • To communicate the decision and end the argument with your (ex) spouse. 

THE STRATEGY 

Before communicating any decision to a third party, make sure you've followed whatever steps are required of you in your parenting plan. Often, that means consulting in good faith with the other parent before deciding. Once you've done that and exhausted your efforts, communicate your decision to the provider clearly and concisely without insulting the other parent.

THE SCRIPTS 


 

  1. To the doctor

    As you know, John and I disagree about whether to try ADHD medication for Jack.  Under our parenting plan order, I have final decision-making on medical issues. After our discussions and considering your recommendation, I've decided to go ahead with the medication. Please have your office send a prescription to the pharmacist so we can go ahead and get started.

     

  2. To the coach

    Thank you for inviting Lucy to participate in the Invitational. While it’s a great honor, because of her grades, she won’t be able to participate this time. Under our divorce agreement, I have the final say about extracurricular activities, and this is my decision.  I am sorry to have involved you in our dispute and do hope that Lucy will be invited again next year.


     

  3. To the school

    I appreciate last week’s meeting to discuss an IEP for Cameron. We've discussed the options since that time, and I have decided for the school to go ahead with implementing the IEP.  If you have any questions, please see paragraph 3 of our parenting plan for our legal decision-making.

 

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