Laurie M. Wasserman
Disagree With Your Co-parent on Which School Your Child Should Attend? Here Are Some Strategies
Disagreements over which school your child should attend usually arise when a co-parent wants to relocate to an area within a different school district, or when a co-parent wishes to transfer a child to/from a private, public, or charter school. It can be difficult to reach a consensus on decisions because, in most situations, both parents have good reasons supporting their position. If the parents cannot reach a compromise, these disputes may end up in Court.
For those co-parents who are struggling to reach a compromise on which school their child should attend, we suggest the following strategies.
Review Your Custody Agreement
Depending on your custody agreement, one parent may have the final say over the matter of school choice. For example, if one co-parent possesses sole legal custody of the children, then that parent is permitted to make the final decision regarding their children’s education.
However, if co-parents possess joint legal custody of the children, they must reach a compromise on matters related to their children’s education. Unless one co-parent has been granted “tie-breaking authority,” which enables that parent to make the final decision regarding their children’s education, you must work to reach a mutual decision.
Your custody agreement may also have other provisions which impact school. For example, some agreements specifically state which parent’s residence is the residence for school enrollment purposes. Other agreements state that parents cannot change a child’s school or medical care providers without approval from their co-parent, meaning that the default school is the current one.
Put Your Children’s Needs First
If you and your co-parent must go to court to settle the dispute over school choice, prepare yourself by understanding which factors inform a judge’s decision. Family court judges tend to favor stability and may not agree to a school change for the children if the decision is not in a child’s best interest. Your decision to change schools needs to be focused on your child’s needs—and not your own needs.
Co-parents looking to defend their position—either to keep the children at their current school or to relocate them—will want to plan talking points centered on what they believe is in the best interest of the child. Co-parents should ask themselves why a possible school change for the children is necessary. Would the change be made to improve the life of the children, or would the change be made to benefit the parent? Also consider the costs associated if changing from public to private, or vice versa.
Ask yourself if the children would truly be better served in a different academic environment. Are the children excelling at their current school or are they falling behind academically? Would separating the children from their social circles negatively impact their well-being? Above all else, keep the discussion focused on the child, and do not let your personal feelings on the matter cloud your judgment.
File to Modify Your Custody Order
If you truly are unable to come to a joint decision on behalf of the children, one co-parent may want to consider filing for a modified legal custody agreement. Bear in mind that modifying a custody agreement can become a lengthy and expensive process and should only be done if the modification is in the best interest of the children.
For genuine disputes that require timely resolution, a co-parent can also file for emergency custody or an expedited custody modification hearing. However, each county’s family court has a different interpretation of what constitutes an “emergency,” and therefore hearings are not guaranteed. If you do not have an emergency or expedited hearing, then you may be waiting months to a year for a court hearing on the issue. Have a backup plan ready to go if you must wait.
Work Out Your Disagreements With a Mediator or Parent Coordinator
Sometimes, the most effective solution is for an objective third party to view the situation clearly and help co-parents reach a compromise. Parent Coordination exists to help resolve disputes between co-parents without the need to involve the court. A Parent Coordinator can also serve as a tie-breaker in parental disputes if the co-parents decide to grant them the authority. Parent Coordinators will always make decisions that serve the best interest of the children. For more information on parent coordination services, as well as further guidance on disputes with a co-parent, contact our office today.
Another option is mediation, which may be a required first step in many parenting agreements. Mediation differs from Parent Coordination in that the mediator cannot be delegated the authority to make the decision; however, the mediator is trained in helping parents reach agreements. Many of the attorneys in our office are trained mediators and can assist with this process. If you have questions about co-parenting schedules, Parent Coordination, or mediation, please contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-842-1070. The legal team at the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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