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Settling Disputes Over Educational Choices in Child Custody Cases

How and where a child will be educated can be a particularly contentious matter for divorced parents. One reason for this is that there are so many options for both primary and secondary education. Public schools, private schools, parochial schools and even homeschooling programs are among the possible choices. Some of these educational paths carry significant expenses and/or involve religious or instructional preferences. Oftentimes, the parents simply cannot agree.

In Michigan, there are two types of custody — physical and legal — and either of them may be sole or joint. If parents are awarded joint legal custody, they each have a say on important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education. One custodial parent cannot override the other, so an issue will be left to the discretion of the family court if the parents cannot reach an accord. The court does not have to choose which parent is “right” concerning the child’s education. The court may use its own judgment to select a schooling option that is not favored by either parent. The court will act based on what it considers to be in the child’s best interests.

The term “best interests” is very broad in scope. In settling a dispute over educational choices, the court is not limited to evaluating the academic value of a certain school or type of program. Judges may look at opportunities for socialization and availability of non-academic pursuits such as sports, hobbies and clubs. While academic excellence is an important factor, judges look at what they believe will most effectively enhance a particular child’s overall wellbeing. A qualified child custody lawyer can help make a persuasive case that this result will be achieved.

Custodial parents should work hard to reach agreement on educational issues. This requires that both parents set aside any and all personal animus. Some people the use their children as a weapon against their former spouse. They may deny the other parent’s educational preferences out of spite. A parent acting to the detriment of their own child just to punish the former spouse is selfish and wrong. Also, parents who fail to reach an agreement risk having the decision taken entirely out of their hands.

Sterling Heights based Dawson Family Law, PLLC is one of Michigan’s most highly respected divorce and family relation law firms. Our legal team has the knowledge, skill and experience needed to achieve favorable results for our clients. If you have child custody dispute or other family law matter, feel free to contact us or call 833-671-4445 for an initial consultation.

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