Considerations and Options for Co-parents Choosing a New School.
As children go back to school this fall, some are starting middle school and others will be in high school. Changing schools and groups of friends can be stressful for children of all ages. Sometimes changing schools involves co-parents choosing a new school. At Scroggins Legal in Plano, we help our clients with all kinds of children’s issues, including school choice.
With every new generation there are more options for choosing a new school. From public to private and new homeschooling options, co-parents can come up with a plan that satisfies their concerns.
Rights to Decide Where the Child Will Go to School
The general rule in the Texas Family Code is that parents appointed as a conservator of a child always has certain rights, unless otherwise limited by the court’s order. Conservators have the right to receive information and have access to educational records. That parent may also consult with educational counselors and teachers about the child’s welfare and educational development. When a parent exercises these rights, they may develop concerns about the school, the child’s development there and may want to change schools. However, having access to information and education professionals does not mean that parent has the right to change schools.
A sole managing conservator has the right, not only to determine the primary residence of the child, they also have the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education. Alternatively, joint managing conservators with an agreed written parenting plan can specify one another’s rights and duties regarding the child’s education. Depending on how the parenting plan is written procedural provisions can control what steps parents should take when making major decisions such as choosing a new school.
Agreements and Disagreements about Choosing a New School
Whether in the process of divorce or there is a school choice issue arising after divorce, there are opportunities for co-parents to negotiate difficult educational decisions in a manner where both parents can share their thoughts and concerns. Even if one parent has the sole right to choose a school, it can certainly be in the best interests of the child for parents to discuss all their options. Especially where school options have expanded in recent years, one parent might not realize the potential of different school choices. Whether co-parents voluntarily discuss school options or use alternative dispute methods such as mediation as required in their parenting plan, being open to sharing concerns about the best interests of the child is important.
When parents cannot agree on changing schools or choosing among new school options, they must refer to any written court order regarding educational decisions, such as in a parenting plan incorporated into the divorce decree. Otherwise, in pre-trial litigation, agreements and orders are made regarding parental rights to make decisions about education.
Mark L. Scroggins is Board-Certified in Texas Family Law* and has negotiated and litigated many cases involving difficult decisions about parenting, and the rights and duties to choose schools. Whether you are preparing for divorce or co-parents choosing a new school, call Scroggins Legal in Plano to schedule a consultation, at (469) 626-5220 or Contact Us on our website.