School Disputes in San Diego Child Custody Cases
Selecting a child’s school can be difficult for any parent, much less ones that have gone through a divorce. You may have arguments about how safe a neighborhood is, how far it is from home, the quality of the education, and if it can support all of your child’s needs. These debates can get heated and lead to disputes regarding custody and who ultimately gets to choose where your child attends school.
If you and your child’s other parent have a dispute regarding where your child will attend school in San Diego, you may need the legal aid of a family law attorney. At Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., our lead San Diego family law attorney has experience resolving conflicts in complex child custody disputes and can advocate on your behalf before a judge, if necessary. To learn how our law firm can represent you, contact us at (858) 458-9500.
School placement can have a massive impact on how a child develops, influencing everything from their special interests to their social lives to, obviously, their education. Not all schools are created equally, and not every parent agrees on which school is the best. Some parents may feel that a private school is a better fit for their child, while others prefer charter schools that provide specialized programs. In more complicated cases, parents of children with special needs may have difficulties working with a particular school district through their IEP and may want their child to attend a school that can better provide for their child’s needs.
It is also not uncommon for parents to debate between a more religious school and a public one. However, you should be aware that, in instances where one parent wants their child to attend a particular school due to religious beliefs, the courts cannot make decisions based on religion and can only consider what is in the best interests of the child. These are personal matters that must be resolved between the parents and, if a judge does get involved in your case, they may only focus on what is best for your child.
In many situations, San Diego courts may not even become involved unless there is an issue regarding legal custody of the child.
Child custody cases can be complex, as custody plans are often divided into several different categories. Oftentimes, the two major categories to consider are legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to making important legal decisions about a child’s life, while physical custody determines where they live. In most cases, both parents have some form of joint custody. One parent may have sole physical custody, while the other has sole legal custody, or both parents can equally have joint and legal custody. In contrast, a parent with sole custody may have both legal and physical custody, while the other parent will only have visitation rights.
What type of custody agreement you have will play a major factor in who gets to decide which school your child attends. Parents who have legal custody are the only ones who are allowed to decide where a child attends school. If you are a parent with physical custody and the other parent has legal custody, their preference would take precedent, even if the school is located further from your home.
However, if you both have joint legal custody, then there may be a conflict with your custody plan. In these situations, you both must agree on where your child attends school. If you are unable to come to a resolution, then you may petition the court to get involved.
San Diego court will often only get involved in a school dispute if the parents cannot come to an agreement. Before having a judge resolve the issue, they may suggest mediation to allow both parents a chance to work through the disagreement. This is often preferred, as the situation can become far tenser if a judge has to become involved. When a judge makes a decision regarding school placement, the decision is often final, meaning you will be expected to respect and abide by that decision or you can be found in contempt of court.
If the judge does become involved, they will act as an impartial, third-party during the dispute. Their goal is to advocate for the best interest of your child. While they will take your opinions and preferences into account when making a decision, that does not mean they are required to uphold one parent’s decision over the other. However, there are factors that a judge can consider when resolving a school placement dispute, including:
- The qualities of each school
- How far the schools are from where the child will primarily reside,
- How well a child is performing at a school
- Whether or not the child will have to change districts
- If one school has more services for a child with special needs
- Whether or not your child has friends at a particular school
- Whether or not your child is a member of a school’s club, student organization, or sports team
If your child has already started K-12 schooling, the judge will generally want to keep them within their current school for the remainder of the school year and even long after if they believe changing schools could affect their education. Judges prefer that a child have a continuous education in a single school district so that a child may avoid repeatedly changing schools, but they can make exceptions. For older children, the judge may consider their opinion on the matter, especially if they are involved in any student programs or planning for college, as any change could significantly impact their future.
Resolving school disputes as a divorced parent can prove difficult if you and the other parent do not have a good relationship. This can be especially troubling for parents of children with special needs, as joint legal custody can create conflicts within an IEP. While some cases can be resolved through mediation, others may require a change in custody plans. But to do that, you will work with an experienced and skilled San Diego child custody attorney to build a case, prepare your arguments, and advocate before a judge. Not any attorney will do, and you will want to work with one who is not afraid of a complicated case.
That is why Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. may be your best option. Our founding attorney has more than 45 years of experience and can provide thorough legal advice regarding your case. To work with one of the top family law firms in San Diego, call our office at (858) 458-9500 and schedule a free consultation.