Separated parents: disputes about schooling

There are a countless number of decisions parents need to make for their children throughout the course of their lives. One of the most important being which school your child attends – which primary school and which secondary school.   Children also often look to their parents for advice regarding higher education as well.  

Separated parents can find making decisions regarding schooling difficult, especially if they don’t agree on which school is best for their child.  If you find yourself in this position, how should you progress?

Firstly, it’s important to be aware of who makes the decision, and who needs to be involved in the decision-making process.   As your child’s education forms part of their overall welfare it is only sensible that they should have a say in which school they wish to attend.   Of course their wishes and feelings should be considered in light of their age and understanding; a teenager’s opinion is likely to carry more weight than that of a primary school child.

Other loved ones may have a view on your child’s schooling – grandparents, for example.   However, as far as the law is concerned, the decision falls with anyone who has Parental Responsibility.  The law defines ‘Parental Responsibility’ as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to their child and property.   In effect, this means anyone with Parental Responsibility can legally make any decision concerning a child’s welfare, including decisions about schooling. Usually decisions should be made with the consent of everyone who has Parental Responsibility except when this isn’t possible, for example due to a medical emergency.

If, after considering your child’s wishes, a consensus can’t be found, then it is worth exploring mediation.   In mediation, a neutral third party will help guide the discussion to try to help everyone come to an agreement.   It can be particularly useful when it is not clear why someone objects to a specific school.  It also helps people see a point of view from a different perspective.

If mediation does not work, you also have the option of making an application to the court allowing the court to weigh in on the decision.   Ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court can be allowed to decide which school your child should attend. Deciding which school your child should go to is hard enough for parents, let alone a Judge that does not know your child as well as you do.   However, the court’s decision will be an objective one based on what is in your child’s best interests.

If you are having trouble coming to agreement with an ex-partner regarding what is best for your child and would like advice, please contact Sahil Aggarwal, family lawyer, Richmond.

020 8332 8675