Which School Should My Child Attend?

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is an all-inclusive plan that determines where a child lives, goes to school, and the child’s interaction with his or her parents.  Florida divorces and paternity cases require a parenting plan.  The parenting plan helps determine which parent will be responsible for the child, and when and how they will timeshare with the child. 

What is a Parenting Plan Based Upon?

The parenting plan is supposed to be based on the best interests of the child or children.  The plan will designate how the decision as to which school the child will attend will be determined.  There is normally a provision in the parenting plan detailing who will make the decision as to which school the child or children will be attending.  For those whom the court has granted shared parental responsibility, it would be typical for the court to specify in the parenting plan that both parents must confer and the court sometimes leaves it up to one parent or the other, as to who decides if the parents cannot agree.  It is common for the primary residential parent (the parent that the children spend the most overnights with) to decide.

Which Parents Home Will Be Used for School Purposes?

There are numerous issues that come up when trying to decide which parent’s home will be used for the purpose of attending school.  The author of this article finds that after custody and child support, this is the most contested issue he deals with concerning the children of a marriage or paternity case.  Parents must consider which school can provide their child or children with the best education and fit and then they must make sure that at least one parent lives in the correct district.  Which school the children go to can affect who the primary residential parent will be and that impacts who receives child support and who pays child support.

Why Agree on a School?

Where the parties are able to agree on the school, the court almost always approves the plan.  The author believes that most judges believe that the parents know better than anyone what is in their child’s best interests.  Where the parties initially agree on the school or schools that the children will go to, there is almost always less fighting and tension, which leads to a better relationship between the parents.  It is sometimes in one or the other party’s interest to choose a particular school (i.e. one school is closer to that parent’s home).  By choosing a school closer to one parent than the other, that parent is more likely to be chosen as the primary residential parent.

How Should You Prepare for Mediation and Trial if You Cannot Agree on Schooling Issues?

One scenario that can take place is where parents are able to negotiate and agree on school issues included in the parenting plan, in which case they can submit it to the court as part of a divorce settlement agreement. Usually the court will approve it, but not if the judge feels it would not be in the children’s best interests. For example, the judge may disagree with the school selection provisions and designate something different.  If the divorcing litigants cannot agree on school selection and address designation, they can each submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. The judge will either adopt one of them or make an address designation themselves that they think is in the children’s best interests. Unfortunately, parents do not always agree on school selection.  However, parents sometimes prefer a school for what the author believes is a wrong reason.  The court is going to evaluate what the best interests of the child or children is or are, not which parent is best served by a particular selection.  Of course, the court will likely look at what is fair to each parent as a secondary consideration.  Having a custody evaluation (a/k/a a social evaluation) may remove some of a parent’s burden to prove their case.  This is especially true where an issue may be difficult to prove without using normally inadmissible evidence.  The author has on occasion hired an educational expert to help prove his client’s choice of school(s) is superior.  Other actions required are bringing up the child’s educational history and present needs and showing that a particular school best fits the bill considering the child’s situation.

How Can I Better Understand My Right to Select My Child’s School?

If you are impacted by the selection of school for your child or children in a divorce or paternity case in Florida, you should seek an attorney that is experienced in this matter. The attorneys at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC are experienced in divorce and family law matters and they can help you decide the best way to proceed. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney, Call (904) 685-1200 today. Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, 4115 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, Florida 32207. Telephone (904) 685-1200.

About the author

Neil Weinreb is a licensed Florida attorney who has been practicing law for over 17 years in North Florida.  Mr. Weinreb received the highest possible rating from Martindale Hubbell, AV Pre-eminent.  Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida and regularly handles child support issues.  Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation.  An important child support case that Mr. Weinreb successfully appealed in 2017 was, Sencoa Crawford v. State of Florida in which Florida’s First District Court of Appeals found that hearing officers did not have the authority to order arrests of Obligors.  Crawford v. Department of Revenue, 219 So. 3d 224 (1st DCA 2017).

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