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Sending the Kids to School - Questions Many Divorced Parents Face

Summer is over and many children have returned to school.  School district boards, private school institutions, and online school companies are all considering their students' safety regarding COVID and what restrictions should be in place during the school year.

In addition to COVID considerations, divorced parents face many additional questions such as what school district has the best reputation and resources? What will be most convenient for my family? Where will my child be the happiest? These are already ​complicated questions for any parent, but divorce can make them harder. How do you make these challenging decisions?

When in Agreement

The ideal situation is when both parents agree on the best educational environment for their children and where to find it. Talking the matter through and considering the child's needs and each parent's needs can be difficult after divorce but it is possible in some situations. Parents will still want to ensure that the agreed-upon plan is put in writing and made legally binding. If changes are requested later on that one parent doesn't agree to, a written statement can come in handy.

Reasonable Considerations

Whether agreeing to an educational plan ahead of time or seeking family court help, it is important to consider each party's basic needs. Of course, the well-being of the children always comes first, but it may lead to a situation that's inconvenient or even disruptive for the other parent. For example, the school that one parent prefers may be too far a drive for the other who must pick up their child several days out of each week or month.

Legal Custody

If a parent has sole legal custody of the children, the other's concerns may not be considered in what type of educational environment is ultimately chosen. Even if the other parent has visitation and other rights, if the sole legal custodial rights lay with one parent, that parent will typically be allowed to make all decisions.

Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions.  The court will assume that decisions can be made amicably between the two parents, but that isn't always the case, and sometimes taking the matter to family court can help decide what is best for all parties involved.

When the Court Decides

In family court, each parent will have an opportunity to share the reasons why their decision would be in the child's best interest. Depending on the child's age, their input may be taken into consideration.  Children never make these decisions.  If the parents cannot decide, then the Court will do so.  

This ordeal can be stressful for many parents and inadvertently put children in the middle.  Representation by an experienced family law attorney can make the process much easier. A lawyer knows how best to present your case to the court. 

About the Author

R. Leigh Frost is a member of DeWitt’s Family Law practice group in its Minneapolis office.  She has more than 20 years of experience dealing with a range of family law issues.  Leigh can be reached at lfrost@dewittllp.com.

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