Private School and Custody

Parents only want what is best for the children, and that includes the best for their education.  Whether children are just starting kindergarten or getting ready to apply for college, parents know that a good education is important to lay the proper foundation for the child’s future security and attaining their goals.  Choosing the right school to meet your child’s needs is an important part of this foundation, and in some cases, this will mean private school.  Following a divorce or separation, parents will have to learn to work together in a new dynamic to make these decisions for their children.  In the vast majority of cases, parents have joint legal custody.  This means that they must work together to make the important decisions, including education.  In the optimal situation, you and the other parent will be able to come to an agreement on whether your child should attend private school.  However, when that cannot be accomplished, you need to be aware of some issues.

First, understand that if you have joint legal custody, neither you nor the other parent has “veto” power.  In other words, if your former spouse wants private school and you do not, he or she cannot just pull the child out of the current school and enroll him or her in private school over your objection.  Only in cases where one parent has sole legal custody or where the order specifically grants one parent the authority to do this will it be permitted.

Next, if you and the other parent are unable to agree, the parent seeking to enroll the child in private school can file a motion with the court.  This motion can ask simply for permission to enroll the child in school, ask that one parent be granted sole decision making authority with respect to education, or ask for complete sole legal custody.

Finally, keep in mind that if you are the one insisting on a pricey private education, it is possible that the judge may grant your request to change the child’s school, but you could be the one who also ends up footing the bill.  The judge may decide to divide the costs, but he or she is not required to do so.

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