Parents in disagreement over which school to choose
When parents separate, child arrangement issues can be one of the biggest areas of disagreement. In this short guide we look at the problems and possible solutions when parents disagree about which school to send their children to.
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What happens when parents disagree about schools?
One of the hardest things for separated parents to deal with is the matter of child arrangements. It's difficult enough to accept that you can't spend as much time as you want to with your child or children; having to reach agreement over decisions like which school to choose can make life so much harder for both of you. There can be a disagreement about location of school or whether it should be a faith school.
Fortunately, there are a few helpful steps you can follow to help reach an arrangement you can both live with, and which is, above all, in the best interests of the children. If you find yourself in this difficult position, you may want to start by asking yourself the questions below.
Do I have parental responsibility?
Both parents will generally have parental responsibility for their child, but this isn't always the case.
You automatically have parental responsibility as a birth mother and acquire it as a father if you are married to the mother on or after your child's birth, or if you were registered on the child's birth certificate as their father after 2003. If not, parental responsibility can also be obtained by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or by by the court.
Can we reach an amicable agreement?
As with all issues concerning children, the first step when deciding on a school or school move is simply for the parents to discuss options and see if they can reach a mutually acceptable decision. If they do, they can simply go ahead with this.
What if we can't agree?
If both parents cannot agree about a choice of school or school move, you have a couple of options:
- Seek legal advice, as matters may be resolved more easily if an experienced family solicitor contacts the other parent
- Seek family mediation to discuss things with the help of experienced mediators
If the issues still cannot be resolved, the last resort option is for one of the parents to make an application to court for one or both of the following:
• Specific Issue Order: This is an application to court which deals with something specific regarding a child.
Specific Issue Orders can include deciding on which school the child attends
• Prohibited Steps Order: This is an order to stop someone from exercising their parental responsibility for a child. A Prohibited Steps Order can therefore be useful for parents who think that the other parent is going to move their child from one school to another without their consent. It is possible to ask a court to make an order to stop this
It's worth noting that a court will not consider an application for one of these orders unless the parent applying has attempted mediation first. It is also important to understand that just because you apply for one of these orders, it doesn't mean that the court will automatically rule in your favour.
Family courts will always consider a range of factors when reaching a decision about a child's school or school move, and the best interests of the child will always be their principal consideration.
If you have parental responsibility for a child and believe that your wishes with regards to schools or any other important matters are being overlooked, you should speak to a family law expert before you take any other action.
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