Daycare Decisions in a Divided Household

The vast majority of parents rely on some form of daycare to help supervise their minor children during the work week.  This is particularly true for parents who do not live in the same household following a marital separation, divorce, or custody battle.  In some cases, a child will need to attend daycare because a parent is returning to the workforce for the first time in years to become self-supporting.

As a new parent, I understand how difficult it can be to return to work while someone else cares for your young child.  It is vital to find a daycare center or nanny that you trust to watch your child in your absence.  I also recognize that having a child in daycare requires regular communication with both the daycare provider and the other parent.  For separated or divorced parents, constant communication with the other parent can be difficult.  However, communication is the key to successful co-parenting.  To start, put aside your personal feelings for the other parent and prioritize the wellbeing of your child.  The health and safety of your child should be the focus of your relationship with the other parent.

If you are separated from your child’s parent and need to enroll your child in daycare, here are some questions to keep in mind:

Who pays for daycare?

Maryland courts consider work-related childcare expenses when calculating child support under the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.  Because the cost of daycare changes frequently as the child grows older, some parents agree to pay for childcare separate from their basic child support obligation.  For example, they may choose to pay their share of the daycare expenses directly to the daycare provider.  Or the non-paying parent may reimburse the paying parent for his or her share of the expense.  Our family law attorneys can help you resolve decisions regarding the payment of work-related childcare expenses as part of your divorce or custody case.

Who selects the daycare provider?

Parents with sole or joint legal custody of their child have a say in choosing the daycare provider.  Generally, you are responsible for finding childcare during the dates and times that you have the child in your physical custody.  However, for many parents, particularly those with joint or shared physical custody, having the same daycare provider may be beneficial for the child and more cost effective.  Attending the same daycare center or having only one nanny helps a child establish predictable routines and feel secure.  Parents may decide to include the name of the specific daycare provider in their marital settlement agreement or parenting plan to avoid future disputes over this issue.

Who provides transportation to/from daycare?

Depending on your custody schedule, either parent may provide transportation to/from daycare.  In fact, Maryland courts often encourage parents to exchange custody at drop-off or pick-up from daycare.  This arrangement minimizes physical interaction between separated or divorced parents.  This is particularly helpful in cases of high conflict, as it allows the parents to focus their attention on the child and avoid those all too often difficult interactions with the other parent.  Keep in mind that most daycare providers will request a certified copy of any court order to ensure that the correct parent is picking-up the child.

Who is responsible for the child when daycare is closed?

There are many instances when daycare is closed, but parents are still required to work, including federal holidays or snow days.  Recently, daycare centers with potential COVID-19 exposures have closed for 14-day periods to properly quarantine.  Whatever the reason for the closure, you are responsible for finding alternative childcare arrangements if the child is scheduled to be in your custody.

How do I communicate with my child’s other parent regarding daily daycare decisions?

There may be times when you need to communicate with your child’s other parent to complete important paperwork, replenish daycare supplies, address behavioral issues, etc.  If you find it difficult to verbally connect with your ex, there are many alternatives to help you communicate more amicably.  For those parents who have difficulty communicating in person or by phone with each other, we advise that they communicate by writing, such as e-mail or text message.  There are also programs, including Our Family Wizard, specifically designed to help separated or divorced parents respectfully interact with one another.

At Brown, Goldstein & Levy, our family law attorneys have worked with numerous clients to resolve daycare issues in their divorce or custody cases.  We pride ourselves in providing effective, practical solutions for our clients.  If you need legal representation in a Maryland divorce or custody case, please call our family law attorneys, Dana W. McKee, at 410-962-1030 to schedule a consultation.