What You Need to Know about Changing Your Child’s School
As the school year draws to a close, many parents are considering whether it is appropriate to move their children to a new school next year. Unfortunately, when the parents are not together, sometimes one parent wants to change the child’s school but the other does not. This sort of disagreement can be difficult to resolve and frequently requires court intervention.
Joint Legal Custody Means Joint Decision Making
When you share joint legal custody with your child’s other parent, you are required to make major decisions together. Changing a child’s school is definitely a major decision, and as such, a court would want both parents to agree if possible. If both parents share legal custody, then one parent cannot simply enroll the child in a new school district or a private or charter school.
Does Your Parenting Plan Address School?
In many cases, those who are co-parenting have what is called a parenting plan. This is a written document detailing what is and is not allowed in certain areas. Frequently, this plan was agreed to by the parents and approved by the court. If you have a parenting plan, the first thing to do is establish if it addresses where your child is to attend school and whether there is a process for making a change. You also will need to look and see if there is anything in a specific court order addressing where you child is to attend school.
No Agreement Means the Status Quo and a Hearing
If there is no underlying written agreement about changing your child’s school and you cannot agree with the other parent, then it will be necessary to go to court. Until the court makes a decision, your child will need to remain in their current school.
Considerations for Which School a Child Should Attend
Underlying all child custody law in Pennsylvania is a standard called “the best interests of the child.” Whenever parents cannot agree and go to court about a major issue such as school, the judge will look into what is best for the child. When it comes to schools, a number of factors are relevant to making a determination:
Where does the child live?
In Pennsylvania, children are generally entitled to attend the public school district of either parent if custody is equally divided between the parents.
Where is the school?
How the child will get to school every day is an important question. If the child spends weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other, then the school that is more convenient to the weekday parent will make more sense for the child. The judge will want to know whether the child will take the school bus, some form of public transportation, or if the parent or another adult will be taking the child to school. The judge will also be interested in the length of time the child will need to travel to get to school.
What is the quality of the school?
If one school district is vastly superior to another, the judge will consider that fact. Similarly, if the option is a charter or private school, and that option is far superior, then the judge will look into that fact. The quality of the education your child will receive is obviously a critical part of the decision-making process.
What is your child’s life like at school?
If your child has friends at their current school, is comfortable there, and is thriving, the judge will want to know why a change is appropriate. If you can show that your child is having problems, is bullied, is not performing well, but will likely do better in a different school, this can have a big impact on the judge’s decision.
What does your child want?
The older and more mature your child, the more likely the judge is to consider their desires. Even a young child, if able to provide a logical and well-stated reason to stay or leave the current school, will be heard by the judge.
Need Help Changing Your Child’s School? Contact Us
If you want to change your child’s school and the other parent will not allow it, reach out to attorneys Alexis M. Miloszewski and Jessica E. Smith for help. We can also assist in situations where the other parent wants to change the school and you do not. Our job is to help you fight for the best interests of your child.