Mom Wants a New School: What's Dad to Do?
Aug. 22, 2023
Co-parenting Issue: Mom Wants a New School, What's Dad to Do?
For divorced parents, co-parenting is crucial. You want to maintain a healthy relationship not just with your children but with their mother too. That relationship provides security and comfort across the entire family. Working together, you continue to balance parental responsibility and each person's involvement in your children's lives.
Not surprisingly, the ideal family relationship is often beyond our reach. One potentially volatile topic is education. Every parent wants their children to attend the best schools and get the best education. But, parents may disagree with what that entails.
The Court Order
Education and schools fall under the legal custody provisions of a custody court order. This document details what is and isn't allowed when it comes to the management of your children. It may include the process of making a change in schools. If there is no language about changing schools, and you and the mother are at odds, the only solution may be going back before the court to modify your custody order.
How the Judge Determines School Districts
Regarding living arrangements and schools, the courts use a standard focusing on the "best interests of the child." The court will consider:
How to divide custody between parents.
If the child is currently engaging or would be engaging a new school for special circumstances.
The school's location and how the change will affect any current co-parenting agreements.
If the change impacts the parent who takes the kids to school or if the family uses public transportation.
The length of time for traveling to any new school.
If the school provides better quality education. (Charter, private, etc.)
The comfort of the child at their current school.
That last point will be extremely important. A judge wants to know why changing schools is necessary. Reasons in that regard can include:
The child has an opportunity for a better education.
The child is having problems (bullying, lackluster performance, behavior issues) and is likely to improve in a different school.
One of the parents is moving and needs to change districts.
Age of Child
The more mature and older the child, the more their feelings play a role in court decisions.
What You Need to Consider
You must approach the matter calmly if you discover your ex's plans to change schools. Temper any frustration about the plan and ask to discuss it at her convenience. Remember, you and your ex-wife are co-parenting and want to work together. So plan a meeting. Talk. Understand. Empathize. And avoid losing your cool.
Sit down (without the kids present) and have an even-tempered conversation about your ex's plans and how you feel about it. Stay on topic, and don't drag the past or other irrelevancies into the conversation. Focus on the issue at hand and try to find common ground. If you can't, you only have two options: (i) agree to leave the child in their current school or (ii) go to court.
Court's Permission to Change Schools
You need the court's approval or denial of a modification of custody. The judge will look at all the information we cover above (and more).
If you're headed to court, you want to get started on the modification request well before the current school year's end. The timing alone can impact what happens the following school year. Consider family mediation for cooperative resolutions. If there's a parenting coordinator, get them involved.
If you are struggling with a co-parenting issue, we invite you to contact our firm and schedule a consultation. We strive to develop solutions that benefit you and your children.