How School Decisions Work with Joint Custody

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Joint custody school decisions are often the most polarizing decisions divorced or separated couples have to make.

If you have joint custody or 50/50 custody, it may be difficult to come to an agreement on things like what school your child should attend, how to create a schedule for your child’s education and extracurricular activities, who will help your child with their studies, and more.

It’s decisions like these that often drive ex spouses to family court, but there are also other ways to overcome these problems.

divorced couple arguing over the phone about joint custody school decisions

Mediation for School Decisions

If you are struggling to come to an agreement with your ex about school decisions, you could benefit from scheduling a few mediation sessions.

In a mediation session, a third party, known as a mediator, will help you and your ex come to an agreement on whatever issue you are trying to resolve.

Often, this agreement will be crafted into a binding legal document known as a custody agreement. Your custody agreement will lay out a plan for you and your ex to follow, leaving less room for debate or “finger-pointing.”

separated couple arguing during mediation session

Precedent for Joint Custody School Decisions

If you do end up taking this issue to court, there are existing guidelines that judges follow when ruling on your case.

At the end of the day, the decision is up to the judge, but here are some precedents that guide judges on how to make joint custody school decisions.

  1.     Sub-section 28(1)(b) of the Children’s Law Reform Act specifically empowers the court to determine any matter incidental to custody rights. The issue of a child’s enrollment in a school program must be considered as being incidental to or ancillary to the rights of custody (Deschenes v. Medwayosh, 2016 ONCJ 567);
  2.     It is implicit that a parent’s plan for the child’s education, and his or her capacity and commitment to carry out the plan are important elements affecting a child’s best interests. In developing a child’s educational plan, the unique needs, circumstances, aptitudes and attributes of the child, must be taken into account (Bandas v. Demirdache, 2013 ONCJ 679 (Ont. C.J.));
  3.     When considering school placement, one factor to be considered is the ability of the parent to assist the child with homework and the degree to which the parent can participate in the child’s educational program (Deschenes v. Medwayosh, 2016 ONCJ 567);
  4.     The emphasis must be placed on the interests of the child, and not on the interests or rights of the parents (Gordon v. Goertz, 1996 CanLII 191 (SCC), [1996] S.C.J. No. 52 (S.C.C.);
  5.     The importance of a school placement or educational program will promote and maintain a child’s cultural and linguistic heritage (Perron v. Perron, 2012 ONCA 811 (Ont. C.A.);
  6.     Factors which may be taken into account by the court in determining the best interests of the child include assessing any impact on the stability of the child. This may include examining whether there is any prospect of one of the parties moving in the near future; where the child was born and raised; whether a move will mean new child care providers or other unsettling features (Askalan v. Taleb, 2012 ONSC 4746 (Ont. S.C.J.);
  7.     The court will also look to any decisions that were made by the parents prior to the separation or at the time of separation with respect to schooling (Askalan v. Taleb, 2012 ONSC 4746 (Ont. S.C.J.);
  8.     Any problems with the proposed schools will be considered (Askalan v. Taleb, 2012 ONSC 4746 (Ont. S.C.J.);
  9.       A decision as to the choice of school should be made on its own merits and based, in part, on the resources that each school offers in relation to a child’s needs, rather than on their proximity to the residence of one parent or the other, or the convenience that their attendance at the nearest school would entail (Wilson v. Wilson, 2015 ONSC 479);
  10.       Third party ranking systems, such as the Fraser Institute’s, should not factor into a Court’s decision.  These systems of ranking do not take into consideration the best interest of the particular child in a family law context (Wilson v. Wilson, 2015 ONSC 479);
  11.     If an aspect of a child’s life, such as school placement, is to be disrupted by an order of the court, there must be good reason for the court to do so. Thus, before a court will order a child to transfer schools, there must be convincing evidence that a change of schools is in the child’s best interests (Perron v. Perron, 2012 ONCA 811 (Ont. C.A.);
  12.       Custodial parents should be entrusted with making the decision as to which school children should attend.  When a sole custodial parent has always acted in the best interest of a child, there should be no reason to doubt that this parent will act in the best interest of the child when deciding on a school (Adams v. Adams, 2016 ONCJ 431);
  13.   Cases are very fact-driven. The courts are not ruling on what is best for all children in a general sense but rather deciding what is in the best interests of the child that is before the court (Deschenes v. Medwayosh, 2016 ONCJ 567).

How a Family Lawyer can Help You

The experienced family lawyers here at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group can help you with your joint custody school decisions. Our team can mediate disputes between you and your ex, help you draft a custody agreement, change your existing agreement with a custody modification, or represent you in family court.

Whatever decision you are trying to make, we’re here to help. Call our office today or fill out our contact form to get started.

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