Parenting after Divorce - who chooses the school?
Pamela Cominos, Lawyer
| 27 August 2013
School A or School B - what happens when you and your ex
can't decide on a school for your child?
When parents separate, it is often the case that many areas of parenting decisions such as choice of schools for children which had been agreed upon in the relationship, are now matters that are in dispute.
This article specifically deals with the issue of choosing a school for children, where parents are not in agreement. If you are currently in this situation or have been in the situation at one time, you can no doubt understand the anxiety, stress and angst it causes not only you, but the child. The child in particular feels unsettled and unsure of his/her future and the quicker the issue is resolved the better for all.
The key of course is to deal with the dispute promptly and not leave it, a month before the child is due to commence school.
The first starting point is either to attend some kind of dispute resolution, with an accredited service provider such as Family Relationship Centres and /or engage the services of a family lawyer who can assist you with the negotiations between yourself and the other parent. Usually mediation is successful and the issue can be dealt with and resolved fully.
Sometimes unfortunately, this is not the case and where you have attempted mediation and this has failed, then the last resort for you is going to Court. If you find yourself having to go to Court, then here are some things that you need to know:
- That simply because the child lives with one parent primarily, that parent does not have the right to make the decision as to where the child attends school;
- Decisions of schooling need to be made by both parents, unless a sole responsibility order is in effect;
- Even where an equal shared parental responsibility order exists, the Court can make a final decision as to the choice of school for the child;
- Whether the child is of an age to express a view and if so, what that view is , the court will consider the child's views with significance and is unlikely to depart from them, where that view has been expressed without influence from either parent and where the child has the maturity to understand the implication of his/her view. This is not to say that the Court cannot depart from the child's wishes and form its own conclusion as to what is in the best interests of the child;
- The practical arrangements for the child travelling to and from the school and what impact this will have on a child. For example if a child of 6 years of age needs to spend over an hour travelling to get to school, then this may be seen as onerous on the child and not in her/her best interests;
- The nature of the relationship the child has with either of his/her parents and the attitude to the child and the responsibilities to parenthood that are demonstrated by each of the child's parents. If one parent has been very involved in the children's day to day education and learning and has attended all extra-curricular activities and the other parent has had non-involvement, then this may impact on the decision of the court;
- The court will consider the likely effect of any change in the children's circumstances. For example, if the child is moving from one high school to another, then this will be an important issue;
- Whether the parties had agreed to the child attending a particular school and any evidence that is available to support this, such as a signed enrolment form;
- The court will consider who will pay the school fees, if that is an issue and may consider anything else that it relevant to the determination of the choice of school;
- Finally the overriding, paramount principle that governs the decision about which school a child attends is what is in the best interest of the child.
If you have a dispute about schools, then contact a family lawyer to provide you with specific advice with respect to your circumstances. The above information is intended as general legal advice only.
M.A Dip Ed LLB (UNSW)
Principal Family Lawyer - Cominos Lawyers
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Pamela Cominos is the Principal Family Lawyer at Cominos Lawyers, Sydney who specialise in all aspects of Family Law. She is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel.
Pamela holds a Masters of Arts degree together with a Bachelor of Laws Degree from University of New South Wales.
Pamela is passionate about being a lawyer and she is successful in assisting her clients in matters that involve complex parenting and property issues. Pamela is a skilled advocate and will represent you at Court with confidence and care. She is a pragmatic and compassionate solicitor who gives her undivided attention to your matter.
Pamela is committed to her family law practice and in particular women in domestic violence. She is on the legal aid Family Law Panel and is a referral solicitor for a number of Women's Refuges in NSW.
You can read Pamela Cominos' full profile here
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