School placement for children during and after a divorce can be a very contentious topic between spouses. Addressing educational opportunities and placements for the children is a vital step in resolving custody and parenting time issues. During a custody case if you are contemplating changing schools or districts for your child it is imperative that you either agree that the child will change schools or if it a contentious dispute do not delay and bring the issue in front of a court as early as possible. Delaying could adversely affect your ability to switch the school by the next school year. Bottom line, do not wait and begin discussions as soon as possible or have an attorney start putting your case together.
A final court order or custody agreement may identify school choice issues as being linked to the address of one parent. Often, this is to maintain stability for the child. The order may contemplate that the child will continue to attend the same school after divorce. However, if the parent later decides to move to a new home, disputes can easily erupt. With joint legal custody arrangements, parents share authority to make important decisions about their child’s education.
After the divorce, each spouse moves on with his or her new life. New opportunities may make it necessary for one of the parents to move. For example, new relationships, new job opportunities, changes in the needs and interests of a child and/or family obligations may lead to wanting to relocate to a new home, a new school district or a new state. Even if you believe that the move would be in your child’s best interest, your ex-spouse may not agree. Even if you believe a new school has a program that meets the needs of your child better than his or her current school, does your ex agree with your assessment?
It may be tempting to delay these discussions or issues until summertime, or even until August just before the new school year. However, delaying the discussion may adversely impact your ability to change your child’s school. As early as possible you should begin planning ahead and having discussions about school change issues. That way, if you and your ex cannot agree to a new arrangement, you will have time to build a case to serve the best interests of your child.
To prepare your case the court will need evidence to support your decision in order to consider modification of an existing court order or custody agreement. You may need to consult with a child custody evaluator, or obtain expert testimony to present evidence to support a compelling case to resolve a dispute. Opening discussions early, will allow you and your family law attorney to have time to prepare the best case to present to the court should a dispute arise concerning your plans for relocation or a change in educational opportunities for your child.
Samantha J. Evian dedicates her practice exclusively to representing family law clients in all aspects of divorce, support, child custody, alimony, equitable distribution, domestic violence and same-sex divorces and custody matters. She has extensive experience with international divorce cases, complex divorce matters, custody matters, and pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. Ms. Evian is also listed in Super Lawyers®. She can be reached at 215- 665-3022 or at Samantha.Evian@obermayer.com.