As with everything in co-parenting, when it comes time for your children to drive, you should talk about the details far in advance, so everyone is on the same page.
People don’t realize how quickly it comes upon you. In Michigan, 14 years and 9 months is when a kid can start taking drivers ed. These days a lot of drivers ed schools have waiting lists because of COVID, when many kids experienced delays in learning to drive. Plus, kids today seem more reluctant than in years past, delaying driving for longer and adding to the number of kids who need to take the courses to qualify for a license.
Make sure to talk early with your ex and think through the timeline of when to get things organized to sign up your child for driving classes. The classes can be difficult – requiring driving back and forth every day for three weeks – but it’s a short-term commitment, so don’t let it become another source of friction in your coparenting relationship. Don’t haggle over distance. Just find a place and get it done.
Many co-parents refuse to communicate and coordinate, and this is one thing that really requires coordination. Kids must sign up for drive times. Some schools will pick up students at the home where they’re at, but some won’t, so you have to work it out.
As with any coparenting quest, consider what you want for your kid. You want this to be successful for them. I’ve seen kids who don’t want to drive because they don’t want to see their parents fight over the logistics of getting to and from class, drive times and the driver’s test.
Yes, there is a cost to drivers education. I now add it into Parenting Agreements as part of other extracurricular activities whose costs parents split. You should both contribute to it; it’s not part of child support, and neither is car insurance. If that were true, everyone’s child support would go up at 16.
Obtaining your permit at the Secretary of State office and getting your license are milestone moments. These are a big deal! If both parents want to be present when they happen, work it out! If one parent doesn’t really care, then the other one can handle it solo. Just be aware that these milestones in your child’s life may matter to both parents, and so both parents should have equal access.
Of course, becoming a licensed driver introduces a whole set of new costs and obligations. Who buys a car? Who obtains insurance? What driving rules will you set?
All of this should be a conversation between co-parents and not involve the kid until you are in agreement of how best to proceed. Come to mutual understanding of who will purchase the car, and whether the other parent will contribute. What will be your expectations for care of the car and its use?
Who will pay for gas? Insurance? Are parents splitting it? Will the child contribute?
Some insurance companies have different prices based on zip codes, and one of you may receive a better “deal” on insurance because you have a bundled package for home and car, so it is worth doing the research. If you have 50-50 Parenting Time, I suggest calling your insurance companies and seeing which one is less expensive. Ask them if the child’s driver’s license needs to be listed at your address to be covered by your insurance since this is something you will need to keep in mind when they first go in for their driver’s permit. If you do not have 50-50, check with the insurance company to see if they have any restrictions on covering a child who is not with you at least 50% of the time. If there is flexibility, go for the most cost-effective option, even if it’s not at your house!
Plus, don’t fall for the pitch to buy an umbrella policy if your child is insured at the other house without finding out if it is truly necessary. Once they’re insured, it may not matter where they are or what car they drive. Your insurance agent should be able to easily answer these questions.
I believe parents should split these costs. In my view, it’s the same as any other extracurricular activity, which most co-parents split down the middle. It makes it easy and shows care and concern for your child in equal measure.
This part is often the hardest for co-parents, who didn’t agree enough during their marriage and find that they agree even less once divorced. Still, I advise co-parents to try their best to establish the same rules at both houses to offer their children consistency instead of confusion.
The same is true when it comes to driving. If you can’t do it together, then involve a third party – a therapist who knows the family situation or a co-parenting coach.
Establish expectations for your child’s driving. What distance will you allow them to drive alone? In what circumstances might you offer expanded freedoms?
Set basic rules – no texting while driving, no eating while the car is in motion, how many others can ride as passengers in their car (keeping in mind that the state of Michigan has rules for first-year drivers).
I’m sad when I hear of a parent who won’t allow their child to drive the car they purchased to the other parent’s house. That’s just vindictive, and it hurts your child.
Children need clarification. They need boundaries. They need to understand the rules. You can be a beacon of light for them, or you can be the cause of their confusion.
I hope you’ll choose to be the light. As our children grow, the problems grow, too. It’s our job as parents to pave the way for them, to provide insight and a framework so they can become confident, strong adults. This is one step in that direction.