Schooling disputes – what can you do? 

My family has (just about) survived our first school summer holidays, but boy that was a juggle of very fun and happy times mixed with a good dose of tantrums, mummy guilt, bugs and childcare dramas!

September is such a milestone month in the year.  It marks the excitement and apprehension of the new school term – starting new schools, returning to old ones or thinking ahead to next year which will include applications for secondary schools by 31st October and, once we hit the Autumn term, primary school applications by mid-January.  It may also be a time that you are considering, or needing, to plan a move during the school year and are therefore faced with navigating mid-year moves, waiting lists and the timing of applications. 

Viewing schools, assessing how they will best meet your child’s needs and strategically nominating your 6 preferences, is a minefield.  If you throw into that, making those decisions with an ex-partner, it can make for a daunting task. 

Decisions about a child’s education fall firmly within parental responsibility and the rights, duties and authority to make decisions relating to your child.  When there is more than one person with parental responsibility, those decisions need to be made collectively and not unilaterally.  Therefore, if agreement can not be reached in relation to which schools (or location of schools) to send your child then that decision may ultimately need to be made by the court.  An application would need to be made for a Specific Issue Order. 

The paramount consideration for the court is the welfare of the child and what is in their best interests. To assess that, the court must apply the Welfare Checklist which requires the analysis of a number of factors which impact such decisions and also take account of the child’s views, depending on their age. These are often extremely difficult, delicate and time sensitive decisions to make. 

Court is not the only option.  There are a number of forums within which decisions such as these can be discussed, agreed or determined.  It’s always worth exploring whether those options would work for your situation before launching a court application, which can be an expensive and lengthy exercise. 

We understand how important these decisions are, and how difficult they can be to make as separated parents. If you find yourself in a dispute about schooling, or any other issues, where you may benefit from advice and understanding your options, come and talk to us.

By Emma


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