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Who gets to choose a child’s school?

When a child isn’t thriving in school, parents are likely to want to make grapple with the possibility of making a change in school, but for divorced parents, decisions regarding school choices can be a mine field. Here’s what you need to know about navigating school choices within Arizona’s legal landscape.

Determining Legal Decision-Making Status
The foundation of any school choice decision hinges on your legal decision-making status:

  1. Joint Legal Decision-Making: If both parents have joint decision-making (commonly referred to as joint custody), it’s essential to engage in a dialogue with the other parent regarding changing schools. Remember, dialogue means an open conversation, not merely informing the other parent of a decision made. Opt for written communication to ensure clarity and accountability.
  2. Sole Legal Decision-Making: Even if one parent has been designated the final say, the starting point remains the same: initiate a discussion with the other parent. Demonstrating cooperation is crucial. If disagreements arise, you can enroll the child in your preferred school after a reasonable amount of time (typically a month after starting the discussion). However, always be ready to justify your choice, as the other parent can still contest it in court.
  3. No Legal Order: This is where things get complex. If there’s no legal order, parents can see the guidelines for unwed parents. Options include mutual agreement with the other parent, enrolling the child and awaiting a possible challenge, or seeking legal intervention for clear directives.

Pending Legal Actions and School Choice
If a divorce or family court action is underway, a motion for temporary orders might be your best course to expedite the school choice discussion. In situations where parents can’t reach an agreement, there’s a possibility schools might decline enrollment.

Engaging with the Family Court System
The family court system is a resource for parents who need clarity and direction. If both parents have reached an understanding, there might be no need to involve the court. But if disputes arise or if clarity is needed, the system is designed to facilitate the best interests of the child.

Seek Expert Advice
Decisions about school choice in the aftermath of a divorce can be emotionally charged and legally complex. Don’t navigate these waters alone. If you’re unsure or need guidance on school choice or other family law matters, reach out to us at 480-649-2905. We’re here to support and guide you towards the best decision for your child’s future.

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