Cannot decide which school your child should attend?

Wednesday 31st August 2022

During or after a separation it is common that disagreements may arise in respect which Nursery, Primary School and Secondary School your child should attend. Both parents want what is best for their child however they may not agree to the same school.

If both parents share ‘parental responsibility’ for a child than you are both responsible for making decisions regarding your child, including the choice of school. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility from birth. Fathers have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate (from 1st December 2003), or they are were married to the mother at the time of the birth.

Fathers may also acquire parental responsibility through an agreement with the mother or by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order granted by the court. If you do have parental responsibility for your child, than you are entitled to have a say in deciding which school your child should attend and generally about their education.

It is prudent that you discuss the following with the other parent in regards to choosing a school which is suitable for your child: the location of the school / how your child is going to get to and from school / what the school can offer your child / the academic credentials. It is also worthwhile reading the up to date Ofsted Reports regarding the school.

It advisable that parents try and communicate with one another before any court applications are considered. You should be open and frank with each other and try and decide what is best for your child. You should put your views and opinion forward as to why it would be best for your child to attend a certain school.

The Court’s view is that it would expect parents to reach a decision about the choice of school they wish their child is to attend before involving the Court to make such a life choice. In some circumstances, you may not able to agree on the choice of school for your child. 

Please see below the next steps you can take to come to some form of resolution:

  • Mediation – you can attend Family Mediation to discuss the possible schools with the assistance of a professional Family Mediator.

The mediator is a third party who will be able to help and talk through matters and help you and the other parent come to an agreement together.

If you are not able to communicate with the other parent than the Mediator will put your views and opinions forward on your behalf.

  • Legal Advice – If a Family Mediator cannot resolve the matter than speak a Family Solicitor.

At Waldrons we can advise you on the next steps to take to come to a decision regarding your child’s education. We will be able write to the other parent and try and come to some form of agreement via correspondence and negotiations.

  • Court Application – The last resort is to submit an application to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order.

A Specific Issue Order is an application to the Court which deals with a specific issue regarding your child, which can include determining which school your child is to attend. You may also wish to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order which stops the other parent from exercising their parental responsibility unilaterally.

You may wish to apply for this order to prevent the other parent from enrolling your child into another school without your consent or prevent them from removing your child from their existing school. In some cases there may be a need to apply for both a Specific Issue Order and a Prohibited Steps Order. It is very important that you and the other parent have attended Mediation first before making any application to the Family Court.

Your application will not be considered unless you have attended Mediation, however in some circumstances you may be exempt from attending Mediation e.g. due to domestic abuse or urgency. We will assess your matter and advice you as to whether you may be exempt from attending Mediation.

Once the application had been considered and issued, the Court will then decide what is in your child’s ‘best interest’. The best interests of a child will always be the courts paramount concern.

The Court will be led by the Welfare Checklist as per s1 (3) of the Children Act 1989 when considering which school your child is to attend.

This includes the following:

● the wishes and feelings of your child,

● your child’s physical, emotional and educational needs

● the effect of the change on your child

● your child’s age, sex, background

● any harm which your child has suffered or maybe at risk of suffering

● how both you and the other parent are capable of meeting your child’s needs.

Here at Waldrons Solicitors our family law solicitors can help and advise parents and guide you throughout the Court process. If you think you need help and assistance about your child’s schooling or education than please contact us and either speak to myself or another member of the team, who will be more than happy to assist and talk to you in confidence.