school choice after separation Brisbane child custody lawyers

School choice after separation. This is an issue that many parents face. In particular, the choice that a couple may make when they are in a relationship may be quite different from their school choice after separation.

Wherever possible, it is recommended that you and your former partner reach agreement regarding the school that your child will attend.

If however, the school choice after separation cannot be made by you and your former partner on an amicable basis, it is going to be important to understand what is the approach taken by the family courts on this issue.   

If you would like some practical legal advice and to understand the options available to you, contact our experienced Brisbane child custody lawyers or our North Brisbane child custody lawyers. We can assist you in all areas of family law, including regards parenting arrangements and family law property settlement. We will advise you regards the options available in your particular circumstances. This will allow you to make an informed decision and to retain control over how your family law issue is resolved. You are also welcome to read on for further information right now………

In Peak & Castles [2018] FCCA 3705 (14 December 2018), the Federal Court of Australia was called upon to determine the senior school choice after separation of the concerned former couple. Each parent proposed a different school for one of their children to attend.  

The Father proposed that the child attend a single sex Catholic school whereas the Mother proposed that he attend a co-educational state school. 

When making parenting orders, the Court must consider the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration (Section 60CA of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“FLA”)). 

The Court noted that both children of the relationship had an excellent relationship with each parent and that there were no risk factors such as family violence or child abuse involved in the matter.

In view of this, the Court proceeded to consider the relevant factors set out in Section 60CC of the FLA in order to determine what was in the best interests of the concerned child whose schooling was being considered.

In Peak & Castles, the child had not expressed a preference for either school proposed by the parents. The Mother was an atheist. The Father, whilst proposing that the child attend the Catholic private school, was not a Christian and neither of the parents or the child identified as a Catholic.  The Father was unaware that from grades 7 to 10, his son, if he attended the private school proposed by the Father, would receive regular religious instruction at the school. However, the Court noted that those teachings would be contrary to the belief of the Mother.

The Court maintains a neutral position in religious disputes when required to make a school choice following separation for the child of a former couple.

“An Australian court, cannot commence with any premise that as a matter of public policy one religion is to be preferred to another or that a religious upbringing is to be preferred to a non-religious one” In the marriage of Pasio [1920] ArgusLawRp 62; (1978) 26 ALR 132

The impact of a religious education is a consideration when determining the child’s best interests.

The Court referred to the Mother’s evidence set out in her affidavit as follows:

“I consider myself an atheist and don’t want the children to adopt Catholic views or feel they have to hide from their teachers and peers the fact that they don’t believe in Catholicism. I don’t want [X] and [Y] to feel or actually be out of place in the school environment”.

An important consideration as to the child’s best interests was found to be the  possibility of the child feeling displaced in his school environment in relation to the religious persuasion of the private school whereas the child was aware that the Mother was opposed to the school’s religious beliefs.

In the final outcome, the Court made orders involving a school choice after separation for the child to attend the state school proposed by the Mother. Other factors which influenced the Court in making those orders included:

  1. That the Mother’s evidence include that she was not in a position to meet the additional costs of the child’s attendance at the private school proposed by the Father;
  2. The benefit to the child of attending a school in close proximity to the Mother’s home and with his friends and children with whom he has attended school for the last five years. The child spent most time with his mother.  

Contact our child custody lawyers Brisbane or child custody lawyers Brisbane Northside for advice concerning your family law issues, including any school choice after separation. We are able to advise you concerning any area of family law.  Our goal is to assist our clients to reach an amicable agreement with their former partner, whether concerning parenting arrangements for their children or family law property settlement. If however court action becomes necessary, we have the experience to represent you at Court.

The information set out in this blog is not a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you obtain advice tailored to your particular circumstances from our Brisbane child custody lawyers or our child custody lawyers Brisbane Northside.