What Can I Do If My Ex and I Disagree On Whether Our Child Should Return to School in The Fall?
As if the pandemic didn’t already cause enough discord between a number of divorced parents, many of which suddenly had to figure out how their custody and timesharing agreements applied when their children were sent home early to finish out the school year, the 2020-2021 school year starting has, once again, brought discord between some parents, as most Florida school districts have left the decision regarding whether their student will return to school in-person or continue online up to the parents, and not all divorced parents agree on whether their child should stay home or attend school.
This means that a number of parents who cannot agree on whether the child will attend school in-person or primarily continue their education online may end up in court before a judge. However, this issue will undoubtedly cause the courts additional backlog, which is already a serious problem due to COVID-19 closures and delays. Many parents are now concerned and frustrated, as their desire to protect their child and make the right decision could end up affecting their education if a decision is not made on time. As a result, they may want to consider using alternative ways of addressing the issue, such as relying on collaborative law, as we discuss below.
Looking at The Parenting Plans & Florida Law
If a custody agreement or parenting plan indicates that one parent makes the primary decisions about education, it is possible that that one parent holds the decision making power here. However, Florida favors shared parental responsibility, and when parents share custody, the ability to make decisions concerning their child’s education is often left up to both of them.
In addition, while Florida law dictates that the parenting plan must designate who is responsible for school-related matters–including the address to be used for the child’s school determination and registration–because COVID-19 is a novel circumstance that we have never faced before, this does not necessarily mean that that one parent alone can make significant, unpredictable decisions like this.
How Collaborative Law Can Help
Both alternative dispute resolution and collaborative law provide alternatives to litigation and can produce a more efficient resolution for disagreements like these. In addition, engaging in a more collaborative process can become easier over time because, as the courts make their decisions on the issue, precedent is set, and the outcome on potentially new cases typically becomes easier to predict. For example, some already believe that the parent who favors remote/online learning may have the more difficult argument to make in these cases because, in general, judges tend to expect parents to follow the government’s recommendations, and the current administration favors reopening schools in the fall. Still, the coronavirus pandemic does present a unique circumstance and challenge, where courts may be more likely to sympathize with parents who disagree with the government’s position due to the scientific data.
Note That Custody Concerns May Come Up
Also keep in mind that this issue could also open up additional disagreements and the need for other legal interventions. For example, if your child’s parent decides that they are uncommitted to either the child participating in remote or in-person education because whatever final decision was made was not what they favored, you may end up having to modify your current time sharing terms in order to ensure that your child’s educational needs are met.
Note that it is crucial that, if this happens, you do not take it upon yourself to go ahead and restrict the other parent’s custody without working with an attorney and making the proper modifications through the appropriate legal channels, as failing to do so could end up hurting your own custody arrangement.
If You Need Help with A Disagreement Over Your Child’s School Attendance or Any Other Family Law Issues, Contact Our Florida Family Law Attorneys
At the Arwani Law Firm, our Orlando divorce attorneys are prepared to discuss your case and provide you with the right options. With a strong background in arbitration, collaborative law, litigation, and mediation, we are prepared to provide you with whatever route is best for you and your loved ones. Contact us today for a free phone consultation to find out more.