I can’t believe summer school break is almost over. Didn’t it just begin? Even more unbelievable is that some local schools are starting the first week of August. Whatever happened to mid-September? While school-age children are complaining, parents are usually (quietly) applauding. Unfortunately, for some divorced parents, this time of year creates additional co-parenting stress.
Choosing (and agreeing upon) a school can create stressful issues for divorced parents. For example, they may share joint physical custody but live in different neighborhoods, both of which contain good schools. So, where do the children attend? Or perhaps the children have been attending private school, and now one parent no longer wants them to or can no longer afford the cost.
If the issue of where the children will attend school can’t be resolved between divorced parents, then they should prepare for a lengthy court battle. I actually have four cases in my office dealing with this very issue, all of which were brought to the court’s attention more than a year ago. School is starting in August, and as of this writing, we still haven’t reached any outcomes.
All four cases involve different issues: a child failing at school; a child wanting to switch schools; a parent relocating to a different city; and a child entering high school with parents in different school districts. When parents are unable to agree on where a child will attend school, the decision is left up to the court. In three of the four cases, we’ve had to utilize the services of an expert to make a recommendation to the court, but even with the expert recommendation the parents couldn’t agree, and we’ve been forced to go to trial. The judges who are overseeing these cases are well aware of the urgency of each matter, but their courtrooms are overloaded, making a court date difficult to obtain.
The message here is to assess your family situation as early as possible, and to address it sooner, rather than later. If an agreement can’t be reached, you may want to consider utilizing the services of a therapist who is well-trained in co-parenting counseling. Court should be considered a last resort, but if it ends up being your only choice, see your attorney well in advance of your deadline.
Pamela Edwards-Swift is a Certified Family Law Specialist