When you and your child’s other parent are married, choosing a school for your child to attend is likely a decision you make together after collaborating and discussing. Having to make joint decisions does not change because of divorce. Your child must still attend school, and the decision of which school your child should attend is one you and the other parent will likely still need to make together.
A Parent with Sole Legal Custody Makes All of the Decisions
If the court awards you sole legal custody over your child, you alone can decide where your child will attend school. You do not have to provide any prior notification to the other parent or consult with the other parent about your decision. Moreover, the other parent cannot disenroll them or register them elsewhere.
If You Have Joint Legal Custody, You Must Make Decisions Together
Being awarded sole legal custody over your child is an exception, not the rule. Many courts prefer to award joint legal custody. A court will recognize both parents have the right to participate in all childrearing decisions.
The challenge with joint legal custody is that you and the other parent must decide which school your child attends. Some parents may allow the parent the child primarily lives with to make this decision. If this does not occur, you and the other parent must agree on where to enroll your child.
What Happens When There Is No Agreement?
If you and the other parent cannot agree on where to send your child to school, you may need to ask the court to intervene and decide. Court intervention would require a court hearing and the presentation of evidence. At the end of this hearing, the court will decide what it believes is in the best interests of your child.
What constitutes your child’s best interests is a difficult concept to define, and it ultimately rests with the court to decide whether a particular school district serves your child’s best interests. Courts look at a variety of factors to decide what is in a child’s best interests in any given situation, including:
- If your child has been attending a particular district or school for some time
- Your child’s current academic performance
- The availability of extracurricular activities for your child
- Any cost for enrollment in the district, which becomes especially important if the other parent would have to pay part of the child’s tuition
- Whether the placement in a new school or district would interfere with any existing parenting time or visitation schedule
Your child custody lawyer will look at your specific case and identify the factors that are present in your case that support your position.
After receiving evidence and testimony from you and the other parent, the court will decide which school your child should attend. If the school is not a good fit for your child, you can ask the court to modify its order after some time passes or if there is new evidence that the school does not serve your child’s best interests.
Your Child Wins When You and the Other Parent Work Together
You and the other parent should work together to decide which school district your child should attend. No court will know your child as intimately as you know them, and if the school district chosen by the court is a bad fit, it can take time to rectify the error.
Consider the following tips if you and the other parent are having trouble agreeing on a school district:
- Listen and try to see the other parent’s point-of-view
- Discuss the pros and cons of your favored district
- Consider how a school choice could affect your child’s friendships, access to services, and extracurricular activities
- Ask your child where they would like to attend
Even parents who are not on friendly terms with one another can usually successfully co-parent when they put their child’s best interests first. And if your child is old enough, they will likely have strong opinions about where they would prefer to attend school, so it’s always a good idea to consult with them on this decision.
Reach Out to Johnson/Turner Legal with Questions
Our Minnesota child custody lawyers can help you in any dispute involving your child’s welfare and best interests. If you disagree with your child’s other parent about schooling or any other issue, let Johnson/Turner’s child custody lawyers step in and fight for you and your child’s interests. Contact us today.