The subject of which schools your children attend can become difficult for parents after separation. Our child custody lawyers Brisbane help explain and navigate some different scenarios.
During your relationship, you may have decided that your children will attend certain private schools. You and your former partner may have decided that come what may, it was worth it to you both that children attend a certain school even if that meant having to forego some holidays that you might otherwise have had or deferring your retirement. These are decisions that parents commonly make for the benefit of their children.
Problems can arise however if you and your former partner separate. Suddenly, there are the expenses of two households that must be met. You and/or your former partner may have a new partner who may themselves have school aged children.
You may find that your former partner is telling you that he or she can no longer afford for your children to attend the private school that you had decided upon during your relationship. This kind of situation can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, not only for a parent but also for the child, particularly if the child is already attending a private school and there is suddenly a dispute with your former partner as to whether the child can remain at that school.
You need to understand that just because a child lives with one parent does not give that parent the right to decide where the child will attend school.
In the absence of any Court order to the contrary, the decision where a child attends school should be made jointly by both parents. This involves the parents consulting with each other and jointly coming to a decision about where the child will attend school.
If there is an order providing a particular parent with sole parental responsibility, then that parent may make the decision as to which school the child attends.
However, even where parents have equal shared parental responsibility, if there is dispute and the matter proceeds to Court, the Court may make the ultimate decision as to where a child will attend school.
It is obviously desirable to avoid a court action where possible. If this is your situation then before considering any court action, you should consult a solicitor and/or attend a mediation in an effort to resolve the dispute. In any event, you will need to attempt family dispute resolution before you may apply to the Court seeking parenting orders.
The difficult decision of which school children should attend was before the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in a recent case where the mother was seeking orders including that the parents would do all things so that the children would be enrolled in specified private schools.
The mother did not succeed and the orders of the trial judge was confirmed providing that, unless otherwise agreed in writing between the parent, the children were to attend a specified state high school and, if the children were not accepted for enrolment in that school, that they attend a state high school in their residential catchment area.
The mother did not establish that the parents could afford the private schools that she proposed the children attend. Her application did not address who would be financially responsible for the costs associated with attending those proposed schools. In fact, the estimated tuition fees only for the children to attend the private schools that the mother proposed was some $250,000 to $300,000 and for each year in which the two children were both attending high school at the same time, the combined costs of tuition alone would have been some$50,000 per year. These amounts did not take account of other costs associated with schooling costs or take into account likely increases in tuition fees over the years of schooling.
The father opposed the mother’s application largely on the basis of his assertion that the parents could not afford the cost.
The mother asserted on appeal that it was her case that she would be fully responsible for the children’s school fees. The Full Court did not accept this as the mother had not sought orders having the effect that she would be fully responsible for the school fees.
The Court found that neither parent could afford the fees. The trial judge had found that the children would not be disadvantaged by attending a state school. The trial judge had also considered that the child would cope with not going to the particular private school if the mother responsibly handled the situation for the child even though the order made was a real disappointment for her.
What next? | Child Custody Lawyers
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