Half of all couples who divorce have children under 16 and in full time education. Whatever problems existed to trigger the relationship breakdown will inevitably intensify if one parent moves out of the area and wants their children to change school as a result.
Unless parental responsibility has been brought to an end by the court both parents have to agree to a change of school. Where one parent refuses to sign registration forms, the situation can become problematic. Neither parent has superior rights over the other and neither parent can assert that because a child spends more time with them, they have the right to decide what school they should attend.
Disputes over school arrangements are more likely to stem from tensions within the parents’ relationship rather than a genuine belief that one school is better than another. Mediation, a way of resolving a dispute amicably without going to court, gives each parent the opportunity to express their opinions in an objective forum with the hope of reaching an agreement.
Where school arrangements cannot be agreed, applications can be made to court under the Children Act 1989 and the court will make the decision. Commonly two types of orders are applied for; a Prohibited Steps Order which stops any change of school in advance and a Specific Issue Order, where the court determines which school the children shall attend. These types of applications can be made on their own or as part of the overall living arrangements for children.
When making a decision the courts will look at a number of factors. The welfare of a child will be their paramount concern rather than the proximity to the school being the determining factor. The court will consider a broader range of guidelines. These include a 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.
Ultimately parents who are sensitive to their children’s needs and who can work to resolve their differences are more likely to have children who thrive despite their parents’ separation. If you are contemplating a change of school, obtaining legal advice early on in the process can help overcome any problems.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.