MAKING EDUCATIONAL DECISIONS IN A PANDEMIC

Parents are having to make different educational decisions as the country and world are gripped in a pandemic.  Prior to last year, the only decisions that really had to be made were public or private school, or whether to go into a gifted and talented program, or holding a kid back a grade.  As the COVID-19 numbers continue to grow at an alarming rate, parents with shared custody are faced with questions regarding how their children should attend school. Below is some insight and answers as to how best to deal with the decision.

Do my court orders state who gets to make the decisions?

Every Texas order regarding children will list rights and duties.  Toward the middle of the list is who has the right to make educational decisions.  Some parents have the exclusive right.  Some have to have meaningful consultation with the other parent before making a decision.  Some can make the decision with the agreement of the other parent.  It can be different than you neighbor or co-worker.  There is no uniformity.  For a real mess you might have parents that can each make educational decisions and when they disagree, they are at a stalemate.   With the occurrence of Covid-19, parents, attorneys and judges alike fully realize (at least the judge’s I deal with) that the decision regarding a child’s means of school attendance during a global pandemic constitutes a MAJOR decision. Thus, when turning to your custody stipulation/order for guidance regarding this situation, you want to review the section on parental rights.

What if the parents cannot agree?

As with other custody disputes, if the parties are unable to agree (and no one has the final say) regarding the child(ren)’s type of school attendance, the matter can be submitted to the Court and the Court will decide. Parties who are unable to agree should seek judicial intervention as soon as possible to achieve a judicial determination prior to school deadlines and to avoid significant disruption to the children’s education.

As with any other custody determination, the Court will decide whether remote or in-person school attendance serves the best interests of the children.

Keep in mind that an issue of means of school attendance is a legal custody issue, which does not change a physical custody schedule. Therefore a Court will not order modification of the physical custody schedule simply to address the issue of the child’s means of school attendance unless you file for modification.  The courts, so far, lack patience for trivial arguments rooted in some type of fearful allegation of Covid-19. 

If you believe certain adjustments must be made to your shared custody schedule to facilitate the child’s means of school attendance and you seek to modify your physical custody schedule, you will need to file a petition for modification for the court to consider a request for changes to the current physical custody schedule. Contact a family law attorney today to discuss your options.

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