More and more Maricopa County parenting time orders are including a provision that the parents exchange a “Child News Report”, “Weekly Report”, or “Transition Report” about the children who are traveling between two homes. I’ve seen mixed success with the use of these reports. When they aren’t particularly effective, it’s usually because one or both parents don’t understand what should really be in the report. I prepared this post to help with the content of those Reports. If you don’t already have a Report ordered by your parenting plan or court orders, you may want to request that the other parent do this with you.
The Maricopa Orders usually read something like this:
Weekly Parental Communication Regarding the Child: To assist the parents in developing an appropriate level of communication, the parents shall exchange weekly “reports” via e-mail. The weekly email report shall be in addition to any other communication between the parents.
By no later than 6:00 p.m. on each Sunday, each parent shall send an e-mail to the other parent. The e-mail shall detail relevant events during the parenting time regarding the child, including medical, school or extra-curricular activities. Further, any upcoming events or appointments shall be detailed in the e-mail. Lastly, any issues that exist for the child shall be summarized along with that parent’s thoughts as to how or what must be addressed. The e-mail shall not be critical in nature, but rather shall be informational and designed to create a dialogue on any issues that require both parties to act.
By no later than 9:00 p.m. on each Monday, each parent shall send a responding e-mail. It may state as little as confirmation that the prior e-mail from the other parent has been received, or it may include substantive responses to issues or events noted by the other party.
Each parent is directed to print each e-mail and store them in a binder or other filing system. It will then serve as the “record” for critical, non-emergency communication, whether for future decision-making or for future litigation purposes.
In ALL communication including the weekly e-mails, Mother and Father shall be respectful in their tone and shall not use any profanities or expletives. The parties also shall not use any substitutes for profanities, such as random keystrokes, and shall not use any changes in font or emphasis to show anger or dissatisfaction. All communication between the parents shall be reasonable and appropriate in all regards.
There’s another description of these Reports in the Arizona AFCC Summit Project report on parent communications. The Co-Parenting Communication Guide calls this type of communication the “Child News Report”, and talks about using an old-fashioned notebook that is transferred back and forth between the parents of a toddler or an infant, rather than emails. The Child News Report is described as: a great way to help parents easily share basic information. This communication tool works something like a progress report between a teacher and a parent.
The Child News Report can be as simple as a notebook that travels with the child to each parent’s home. Notebooks with a binding are better than loose-leaf pages or a spiral notebook. The notebook is an inexpensive tool that does not require the use of any technology.
There are some disadvantages of using a notebook instead of technology. A notebook can be lost, changed or destroyed. Your child could read it. The notebook may not be effective in dealing with time-sensitive issues. This can be especially true during longer blocks of parenting time.
The parents are instructed to use the Report in this way: At or near the end of your parenting time with your child, begin a new dated entry in the notebook and write down information about your time with the child. The information you write in your child’s news report will depend on the child’s age.
Include details about medical care, serious injuries or illnesses, diet, education, school or events, major social events, and upcoming appointments. You should also include any issues that came up while your child was in your care that call for further discussion. After the child’s exchange, the other parent should read and initial the news entry in the notebook. Then at the end of their parenting time, this parent will write down an entry and send the notebook along with the child.
Suggested topics for these notebooks are listed as:
Child News Report for Infants & Toddlers might include:
- Feeding/ food issues
- Nap and sleeping schedules
- Ways to soothe and calm the child
- How bumps and bruises occurred
- Potty training techniques and updates
- Medical appointments
- Illness and medications
- Developmental milestones
A Child News Report for Pre-School & School-Aged Children might include:
- Relationships with friends and social activities
- School, extracurricular and religious activities
- Scheduled events and activities
- Homework and school projects
- School progress
- Behavioral and disciplinary issues
- Bed, bath and meal routines
Philip Stahl, Ph.D. also talks about a “Parent Communication Notebook” and physically exchanging a notebook of information about health, feeding and eating, sleeping, daily routine and other information which would be especially useful for a very young child.
What is not helpful in a Parent News Report:
- Information the other parent already has or can get from another source such as a school or activity website. It’s better to specify the website or email where the information is stored and let the other parent get the information directly.
- A narrative of how happy the child is to be with one parent or parent’s family as opposed to the other parent. A statement that the child visited the zoo is great; a statement that the child was incredibly happy to spend the weekend in the loving embrace of Father’s family but then cried hysterically when he was told he was returning to Mother is not helpful.
- An exact recitation of things stated in previous Reports.
- Requests for reimbursement of expenses or payment of support.
- Raising a major issue for discussion, such as trading a future weekend or changing schools. Those should be handled in separate emails.
- Scheduling vacation dates or giving first-time notice of a child’s doctor visit. Those should be handled in separate emails.
Some examples of Parent News Reports will follow in a separate post.
Resources and Credits: See Co-Parenting Communication Guide at http://heyannette.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Coparenting-Communication-Guide-2012-9-13.pdf (prepared by the Arizona Chapter of AFCC)
Parenting After Divorce by Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D., Chapter 2, “It’s Time for a Truce”.