Choice of schools. In divorce and custody cases the end of summer always brings about the question of whether the children should attend public school, religious school, private school, or be home-schooled. While parents may “share legal custody” and be expected to make this very important decision together, the reality is that parents who agree upon very little, and are in the midst of divorce and custody proceedings, are often not going to be able to agree on what type of school the children attend.
Recently the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered the issue of “choice of schools” and whether or not the local county court was required to consider the 16 custody “factors” outlined in the Custody Act. The Superior Court ruled that the county courts did not need to consider the 16 custody factors, but rather needed to review “school choice” questions using the age old “best interests of the child” standard. Basically the Superior Court left it to the best judgment, under the circumstances, of the local judges to decide what type of school the children should attend when the parents cannot decide.
In future “choice of school” cases in Pennsylvania, parents should be very careful to keep track of conversations with the other parent regarding the preference between public school, religious school, private school or home school. While the choice of the type of school is not up to the children, parents should be aware of where their children’s friends go to school and whether their children have expressed an opinion where they would like to attend school. Moreover, often with religious schools there are attendance or membership requirements that effect enrollment, and parents should know whether these requirements exist and if so, what they are. Finally, parents should understand that often the choice of schools comes down to a money issue, as religious and private schools often come with a price tag. Parents who want the children to attend religious or private schools should be prepared to pay some of the costs involved with attendance at these types of schools.
Most importantly, the education of the children is one of the most important decisions a parent will ever make. If there is a disagreement between the parents, and the judge will ultimately decide, it is probably a good idea that the parent goes to court with a lawyer who can help present the parent’s best case and arguments to the judge.
If you have questions about making this important decision, call us at (215) 822-1888.