School’s out for the summer: have you agreed where your child will attend school post separation?

Deciding which school your child will attend can be one of the trickier aspects of post-separation parenting. Whatever problems existed at the time of the relationship breakdown will inevitably arise if one parent moves out of the area and wants their children to change school as a result.

Parents will be naturally concerned about the legal rights and responsibilities in respect of their children’s schooling and divorce can have an impact on the role each parent has for their child/children at school. We have outlined below, parental rights, responsibilities and options available in respect of schooling.

If both parents have parental responsibility (i.e. children’s mother or father (married to mother when child is born or on the child’s birth certificate), both parents have to agree to a change of school. Neither parent has superior rights over the other nor can a parent assert that they have the right to decide what school the child should attend.

If parents cannot agree on the choice of school, then an application can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989 for the court to make the decision. The two types of orders applied for are:

  1. Prohibited Steps Order – this will prevent any change of school in advance;
  2. Specific Issue Order – this is where the court determines which school the children shall attend.

The orders listed above can be applied for on their own or as part of an application in respect of the overall arrangements for the children.

When considering an application the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child and will look at the ability of the parents to sustain the child’s attendance (e.g. school fees, travel to school). The court will also consider the child’s wishes and feelings (where they are old enough to have formed an opinion in light of their age and understanding) as well as any educational needs amongst other factors.

Separation may involve bad feelings between parents (and their families). Children can pick up on this which may make them confused or unhappy, or even blame themselves for a break-up. It is important that parents are sensitive to their children’s needs during this time and try to resolve their differences.

If you, or your former partner, are contemplating a change of school, obtaining legal advice early on in the process can help overcome any potential problems.

Our specialist Family team can provide advice to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken. Contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118.