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Fighting about school for the kids when you’re divorced

Every year, a steady stream of divorced and separated parents make their way into attorneys’ offices because they’re having conflicts over a child’s education. Since shared legal custody has become the norm and the law presumes that parents who share custody will also share in the decision-making process, these disputes have become more common.

Here are some of the most important things you need to know:

Pennsylvania law has specific entitlements

Unless a child is attending private school, they are typically required to attend the public school in the district where they predominantly live. If you have more-or-less equal physical custody with your spouse, then the child has the option of either district.

The best interests of the child are paramount to any decision

If you and your co-parent can’t agree on which school your child should attend, the judge in your case will look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of each school for the child. That may include things like:

  • Classroom size
  • Educational ranking of the school
  • The child’s learning style
  • The child’s preference
  • The willingness and capability of the school to accommodate the child’s needs
  • The cost of a school
  • Any transportation issues

If one parent lives in a much better school district than the other, expect that to weigh heavily in the judge’s mind during the decision-making process.

If you’re seeking a more unusual solution, be ready to explain your logic

Sometimes parents opt for a non-traditional education. Maybe you want to home school your child this year or move them to an e-classroom. If your spouse objects because they believe your child needs the brick-and-mortar environment, be prepared to make your case before a judge. You may point to safety concerns, problems your child has with the learning environment, food allergies and the like as reasons for keeping your child out of school.

These disputes can often be worked out through negotiation. When they can’t, you need an experienced attorney’s assistance.