We cannot agree on a school – What will the court decide?

If you are separated parents and cannot agree on what school your children should attend there are considerations that both of you need to keep in mind. Here, Jemma Wentworth discusses what happens when a separated couple cannot decide on which school their child should attend, and how the Court’s decision may vary depending on the care arrangement.

If it is agreed between you that one parent is the primary carer, meaning that one parent deals with the day to day needs of the children, and the children’s home is with that particular parent, then common sense must prevail. The school most local to that parent, or the school being selected by that parent, should be first consideration.

If that educational setting is not agreed by the non-primary parent, justifiable reasons must be put forward setting out why another setting should be considered. This is a scenario when obtaining legal advice would be beneficial.

However, if there is a shared care arrangement in place, thereby resulting that both parents’ homes are where the children equally call their home, and if the parents cannot agree on an educational setting, obtaining legal advice is vital and an application to the family court may well be required.

Initially, other forums for alternative dispute resolution to resolve the dispute must be attempted, for example, mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached, a court application should be issued.

The application that would need to be made comes under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and is for a specific issue application; to specifically address what is the best interests of the children’s education. Within the proceedings evidence shall be put forward by both parents to set out how their proposal is in the children’s best interests.

However, if one parent has taken matters in their own hands and begins the process of changing the children’s school without the other parents’ consent, that parent would need to issue an urgent application to the family court to prevent the children’s removal from that school. This also comes under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and would be for a prohibited steps order; to prohibit the children’s removal from the school without a court order to do so. In this case, any order of the court would need to be provided to the school as well as all those with parental responsibility.

In all cases and at all times parents are strongly encouraged not just to communicate their wishes, but to co parent effectively for the best interests of their children.

If you need advice on this topic, or any other matters concerning children issues, please get in touch with our private child team at McAlister Family Law.

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