Can I change my child’s school?
Changing your child’s school is a big decision and deciding to do so without consulting the other parent can be fraught with difficulty. It’s a common problem between separating parents, so what are some practical things that should be considered?
It’s a common dispute among separated parents, and generally schooling is known as a “major long-term issue” which should be agreed upon by parents jointly – unless there’s a court order granting one parent sole parental responsibility.
If parents can’t reach an agreement about where their child is going to attend school, one parent might need to start court proceedings so that a judge can make the decision for them.
In a recent case, a mother filed an application to prevent the father from changing their daughter’s school.
Before the couple split, the mother had enrolled the child in Prep at a Catholic school.
At the time of the court proceedings, the child was living with the father and had only seen the mother face-to-face on two occasions since the couple separated.
The father had been taking the child to Prep at the Catholic school in 2020.
Later that year, the father moved to a different suburb and told the mother the child would be enrolled at a different, non-religious, school for Year 1 in 2021. The new school was within walking distance of the father’s house.
The father wanted to change the child’s school as he could no longer afford to pay for the child to attend the Catholic school, and the mother had not offered to contribute towards the school fees.
The mother did not oppose the child living in a different suburb with the father, but she also didn’t want the child attending a new school due to the distance and travel time for her, and the impact it would have on her relationship with her child.
The mother said the child was struggling at school, and would suffer anxiety from changing peer groups.
However, the father said since their daughter lived with him for 10 nights out of every fortnight, she should not have to travel so far just to attend the Catholic school.
The father also said that due to COVID-19 disruptions, the daughter’s face-to-face learning had already been interrupted and that she would have counselling and support at her new school. And due to spending only a limited amount of time on site at the Catholic school, changing peer groups should not cause her too much distress.
He proposed that changeovers take place at a 7-Eleven between his new home and the mother’s home.
During the hearing, the mother’s barrister told the court the mother would contribute towards the fees for the Catholic school.
However, the court decided that given the mother had not made this proposal previously, and that she was represented by Legal Aid, the judge could not be satisfied the mother could meet payment of the school fees.
The judge decided the father’s proposal was more practical and in the best interest of the child, as well as being more cost effective in terms of school fees.
The independent children’s lawyer also supported the father’s viewpoint.
Parenting matters after separation can be complex. If you would like further advice in relation to schooling, or any other parenting matter, contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers on: (07) 3221 4300 or email: [email protected] Make a no-obligation, fixed free initial consultation appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers and let us help you through this time.