In the time of COVID-19, parents are facing many difficult decisions. Should their children be allowed to visit friends? Should they wear masks to family get-togethers? The questions can seem endless at times. With autumn quickly approaching, parents find themselves facing an even bigger dilemma – What should they do about school? For parents that are divorced and trying to co-parent, this can be even more challenging than most.
The School Dilemma
Co-parenting means that both parents have equal decision making. While this can work in the child’s favor and help both mom and dad to stay equally involved in their lives, it can also present additional challenges. As schools set to start back up this fall, parents have to decide between in-school classes and virtual learning. Some parents are concerned about their children being stuck in a germ-filled classroom and would opt for online learning from home, while others feel like a classroom is necessary for children to get ahead in life. The varying work schedules of parents also make things difficult, as one parent might be more open to the possibility of staying home with the children during school hours while the other has to work – all while both parents attempt to maintain their individual lifestyles.
The Options You Have
If you find yourself trapped in a situation where you are disagreeing with your ex-partner over school plans, it’s important to take action to get on the same page now. With the start of school just around the corner, you need to lay down solid plans that will help you to prepare both yourselves and your children for the upcoming year.
Educational decisions, including where to send your child to school, fall under legal custody. Legal custody may be divided into zones of decision making, and a court may grant sole educational decision-making authority to a parent. Therefore, in assessing your options it is important to determine what type of legal custody you have. Absent having a court order, parenting plan, or written agreement in place, you and your co-parent have equal rights under the law.
Even if the parent does not have legal custody, it may be possible for him or her to have the ultimate educational decision-making authority if a court finds that parent’s authority to be in the “best interest” of the child based on a multitude of factors, including parent’s professional expertise and demonstrated greater interest in education.
Although not as potentially complicating a factor as legal custody, physical custody (i.e., which parent the student resides with), can impact some educational decision as well. For example, physical custody can impact what school district a student can attend where the parents live in two different school districts.
Make sure that you take time to discuss the school options with your ex and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about each of the learning options. Listen to their points of view as well and see if you can come to an understanding of what is best for your kids.
Taking Legal Action
In some cases, agreeing on schooling may take more than just a friendly conversation. If you and your ex-partner can’t make plans together, it might be time to take legal action. In this case, you will need to have a lawyer help you navigate your options and find the best way for your voice to be heard. Mediation is one way that parents can come together to talk over their differences of opinion and come up with a solution. In other situations, the case may need to come before a judge who can determine what is in the “best interest” of the children and how they should learn during this trying time.
Children are already going through a lot of stress as they prepare for school amid a pandemic – making an informed decision that gives them structure is vital at this time. Start taking action now to ensure that you have a solid plan set up for the upcoming school year. Contact a lawyer today to learn how to help your children transition more smoothly.