School Disputes in Montgomery County, PA Child Custody Cases
Resolving Arguments About School Placement
Receiving a proper education is key to a child’s development into an intelligent and socially aware adult. However, there are several ways a child can receive an outstanding education, from attending public school to early intervention to homeschooling. Oftentimes, these decisions are made by both parents in a peaceful marriage; however, divorce is a whole other issue. It is not uncommon for divorced parents to disagree about where a child should attend school. They may live in separate school districts or disagree about teaching styles.
In some instances, this may lead to the Pennsylvania court system becoming involved if parents cannot come to a compromise. When this occurs, you will want to have an experienced and mindful Montgomery County family law attorney at your side to ensure both you and your child’s rights are protected. To learn how the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. can provide legal counsel in a child custody school dispute, schedule a free consultation by calling our offices toll-free at (866) 290-9292.
Who Chooses a Child’s School?
Generally, a child’s school of choice is decided based on where they live. This is often because parents tend to pay specific local taxes that are funneled into nearby public schools. These schools then provide placement for a resident’s child. However, parents can also choose to have their child attend a charter school, private school, or have them be homeschooled. For divorced parents, this becomes even more complicated as parents may live in separate districts, creating confusion about where a child should attend school.
Oftentimes, school placement is decided by the parent who has sole legal custody. This means that that parent makes all the important decisions about a child’s development, from their health to their education. This can be in conflict with physical custody, which decides where a child lives. If the child is primarily living with one parent, then you would naturally assume the child will attend a school in their district, but legal custody can take precedence.
What about joint custody? Then the child has the option of attending a school in either district, but only if the parents can make the decision together. Neither one is allowed to leave the other parent out of the discussion. If one parent attempted to enroll a child in a private school without the other parent’s input, then that would be a clear violation of a custody plan.
When Do Courts Get Involved?
If you and the other parent have a disagreement about where a child should attend and both of you have legal custody, then you may need to have a Pennsylvania family law court step in to act as a mediator. However, you will want to remember that the court is not designed to take sides in your case; rather, they must uphold your child’s best interest. Thus, they may disagree with both of you and make a decision based on physical custody, not legal custody.
It is important to note that once a court gets involved, it can be more difficult to overrule their decision. For example, if a court decides a particular school is best for a child, you will be expected to abide by their order. However, down the line, you may find that a school is not the right fit for your child. They may deal with bullying, discrimination, or have developmental issues that would be better served somewhere else. If you or the other parent realize that your child needs to change school, you will want to speak to a judge as soon as possible to get the order changed. Judges will not want to contend with your case in August just before schools open, whereas January may be a better time of year.
What Do Courts Consider in School Placement Decisions?
What constitutes a child’s best interests can vary from school to school. If they have already started attending K-12 grade, then the judge will likely be swayed by where the child has already attended school. They will factor in how well the child is doing at a school, if the child has many friends at one school, and proximity to their primary home. For older teens, a judge can also consider if they are a member of a particular sports team or student program that can impact their educational development. Your teenager may also be asked to speak before the judge about their position on the matter. In some situations, they may even look at the transportation options that a school offers, such as bus routes.
Of course, that does not mean you do not have a voice in the matter. Judges will want to hear from both parents before making a decision in order to ensure both sides can come to an amicable compromise. This is especially important for younger children who may not have the maturity yet to make important school decisions.
Speak to an Experienced and Knowledgeable Attorney
While educational decisions should be a family matter, it does take a village to help a child grow and develop. This includes everyone from their family members to their classmates to their teachers and even the family law courts that evaluate their custody plans. That is why if you have a dispute with your ex-spouse about school placement, you should contact a Montgomery County child custody attorney at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. Our lead attorney can provide thoughtful and thorough legal guidance that may involve mediation, as well as representation in a family law court. To learn how we can help you, call us toll-free at (866) 290-9292.