Back to School – or Not? How Divorcing Parents Can Prepare if Teachers Strike

By: Mary Krauel - Divorce Mediator – PRM Mediation
Last Update: October 31, 2016

Ontario public high school teachers and the Province of Ontario have reached a tentative deal, but parents of the rest of Ontario’s two million school kids are still waiting with bated breath to discover whether the two other teachers’ unions will reach a settlement before school commences. We saw job actions taken by teachers in prior years, and with less than a week to go before kids are to head back to school it doesn’t look good. Unions are threatening, “the fight of your lives,” as quoted in a local newspaper. No threat of strike has been made as yet but it is a very real probability that may face parents. These teachers have been without contracts for a year.

Impact on Child Care

Working parents struggle during the summer holidays to find camps, day care or other means of care for their minor children. Unless they are teachers themselves and have the summer off, most parents are left scrambling to cover the summer other than their planned 2 or 3 week holidays. Because the care is for a short duration, costs are often at a premium. Supply and demand works in child care too.

Parents look forward to the kids returning to school, as they need only worry about before and after school care and not the whole day. The looming uncertainty that schools will even receive students, or if once it commences may close should a strike be called mid-term, weighs heavily. Parents will be left again looking to find child care or be forced to take time off work, putting their employment at risk.

This becomes an even bigger challenge for single parents who are separated or divorced. They can no longer provide easy back up to each other since they live in separate homes, sometimes far from each other. They can no longer make economic decisions for one parent to stop working and remain at home. Each parent needs to work to finance the cost of maintaining their respective homes.

8 Planning Steps Separated and Divorce Parents Can Do

As part of my mediated parenting plans, I always coach my clients to meet 2 to 3 weeks before each school year begins to discuss, plan and make decisions that affect the care and well-being of their children. The possibility of a pending strike or job actions should only increase the importance of planning. Even if a formal parenting plan exists (many often don't have one or it is deficient) parents may need to tweak it to meet the current year’s needs without the need for formal amendments to the agreement. The following eight things need to be addressed in order to create and maintain a successful parenting plan:

  1. Which after school programs and extracurricular activities the children will be enrolled in;
  2. How will transportation to these activities be managed;
  3. What before and after school day care is needed to enable the custodial parent to get to and from work on a timely basis;
  4. What special needs do the children have for academic development (i.e. tutoring, or medical needs);
  5. How to fairly share these costs (known as Section 7 Extraordinary Expenses in Ontario);
  6. Whether or not there should be a change to the parenting schedule;
  7. What the emergency contacts are, and whether or not the school has been advised;
  8. What the back-up plan is if there are unforeseen absences by a child from school, or by either parent.

What is Your Plan B?

Having a Plan B, or back-up plan, is likely one of the areas that parents most often forget about or never think they will need. However, in the current circumstances in Ontario, parents would be well-advised to think about who can take care of the children if extended absences from school are to occur (due to a strike, as an example). Parents need to consider grandparents, neighbours, and other care providers to step in on their behalf, or be creative and consider “time sharing” between groups of parents who can take one day off every two weeks versus two full weeks.

If parents anticipate and address these issues in advance, they can avoid the panic and higher costs when “life happens.” They just simply execute their plans.

Written by Mary Krauel, CPA, CA, EMBA, CDFA, owner and senior negotiator of PRM Mediation. – To learn more about “Back to School” planning you can contact Mary at 905-267-2175, or or visit her website

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