Separated Parents: Deciding Where Your Child Goes To School

If you’re struggling to agree on your child’s schooling, we can advise you on the options available.

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By Victoria Richardson - 23rd November 2021

If you and the other parent can’t agree on your child's schooling, you’re encouraged to attend mediation. If this doesn’t work, then your final resort is to apply to court for a Specific Issue Order. The court will then decide what is in your child’s best interests.

Deciding where your child goes to school

If your child is being bullied, then you might decide it’s best for them to move schools. But if you and the other parent are separated, then do you both have to be in agreement?

It’s very common for separated parents to disagree on a child’s schooling. One may prefer their child to attend a private school, while the other may consider a state school to be a better fit. Or, they may have differing opinions as to which state school is the preferred choice. One parent may even want to home school their child, with the other taking a dim view of this approach.

So, what does the law say?

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If you both have parental responsibility

It all depends on whether or not you both have parental responsibility for the child. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility. Fathers have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate, or they were married to the mother at the time of the birth. Fathers can also acquire parental responsibility through agreement or a court order.

If you both have parental responsibility, then you both have to agree which school your child attends.

Attend mediation

This may be a difficult decision to reach, particularly if both parents have different ideas and preferences. These cases are often incapable of resolution as there’s no middle ground. A child is either going to attend a particular school or they aren’t.

If no agreement can be reached, then both parents are encouraged to attend family mediation to see if they can reach a decision with the help of a professional. Some family law mediators will involve the child, as a child’s view can be very important – especially if bullying is an issue.

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Specific Issue Orders

If an agreement still can’t be reached, then one parent will need to make an application to court for a Specific Issue Order. The court will make the decision for the parents based on what it believes to be the child’s best interests.

Applying to the court is a last resort if you can’t agree which school is ‘best’ for your child. The court will expect the parents to have attended mediation before making an application. It's also important to note that the court process can take up to six months, by which time the child may be settled in to a new school. The fact that a parent makes an application to court does not mean that they will be successful.

Speak to our family law solicitors

Contact us at Aticus Law for a free initial enquiry. We can advise you on the options available, and can help you make a Specific Issue Order if needed.

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