DISPUTE OVER CHOICE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL?
It’s that time of year again when parents must decide on a secondary school place for their child. For separated parents communication can be challenging if the relationship is strained. Parents can disagree about the location of a school, whether their child should go to a faith school, or whether their child would benefit more from a private education.
It is always in the best interest of your children to agree arrangements, but when this isn’t possible, there are legal options available.
Can I have a say even if I’m not the primary carer?
Yes! If you have parental responsibility for a child, you are entitled to have a say in the decision-making for your child, especially regarding their education.
Both parents will generally have parental responsibility for their child, but it is not always the case. Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility, and fathers have parental responsibility if they are registered on the child’s birth certificate or if they are married to the birth mother at the time of birth or after birth. If neither apply, then parental responsibility can be obtained by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court.
What if we can’t reach an agreement?
It is important to seek advice early on. Family mediation, is a good place to start provided it’s a safe environment for a couple. It’s an opportunity to voice your wishes and feelings in the presence of a trained mediator who can help and support the decision making. If mediation fails, seeking advice, from an experienced solicitor can and help you understand the pros and cons of asking the court to make a decision versus reaching a compromise. Listen to your child. At the age of 11 they will have their own mind about the school they want to attend.
If neither of the above options assist in reaching an agreement for a choice of school, the last resort option would be to make a court application.
What orders can the court make?
Specific Issue Order – a parent can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order and the court will decide on which school your child should attend.
Prohibited Steps Order – a parent can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order which prevents someone from exercising their parental responsibility. This order could be used to prevent a parent moving their child to another school without the other parent’s consent.
The court will only accept an application once you have demonstrated that you have considered or attempted mediation by attending a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. Mediation will not be deemed suitable if, for example, where there has been domestic violence.
The Court will consider a range of factors in their decision making such as the likely effect on the child and parents of the change of school, the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs and the wishes and feelings of the child concerned. The best interests of the child will always be the court’s principal consideration.
To discuss how Townsends might be able to help you with issues regarding your child’s schooling, please call us on 01992892214. We offer a one-hour no obligation consultation at a reduced rate of £150 inclusive of VAT.