As a Rochester Hills divorce lawyer, one of the most pressing issues I work on with parents in the spring is schooling decisions. Almost every parent wants the best education for their child. But they can disagree on what “best” means, and how to achieve it.

In particular, three issues often arise: school location, educational choice, and expense.

Start Talking and Start Planning Now

We’re getting to the end of the school year, and your child may be starting school for the first time, or moving on to middle school or high school in the coming year. Perhaps you’ve recently divorced and are living in different towns or school districts. Have you discussed where they will go to school next year?

If you have joint custody, both parents have equal say in where their child goes to school.

Like many issues in family law, if the parties cannot agree they may have to go to Court for a decision. Decisions like these can take several months to go through court, so now is the time to contact your Rochester Hills divorce lawyer and start planning for the next school year.

The Best Interests of the Child

Like almost every decision in family law regarding children, the court holds the “best interests of the child” in highest regard. The landmark case for school choice and joint custody in Michigan is Pierron v. Pierron, settled by the Supreme Court of Michigan in May 2010.

In essence, the Pierron case established that the parent requesting the change has the burden to demonstrate that the change is in the best interest of the child. If the school change modifies the existing custody arrangement, the court must consider a higher burden of proof than if the custody arrangement is not affected.

When evaluating a case, the court will consider:

  • The existing custody arrangement between parents and how the choice of school will disrupt the family dynamic;
  • Reasonable preferences of the child;
  • Additional factors such as the stability of the family home, the home, school and community record of the child and other factors the court deems relevant in the case.

An experienced Rochester Hills divorce lawyer can help advise you on existing case law, and help you present a strong case to the court.

Issue: Moving or changing the school district or custody agreement

When the family law issue involves a parent moving and/or changing the custody agreement, the Pierron case law applies directly. If parents cannot agree to changes to the custody agreement in place, the court will weigh the best interest factors.

Issue: Disagreeing on the Educational Option

Perhaps one parent wishes the child to go to a specialized magnet school or religious school, and the other parent disagrees with the choice. If the arrangement does not affect the custody agreement, the court may consider the child’s preferences above other factors (i.e. reasonable preferences of the child).

Issue: Costs of Schooling

If both parents agree the child should attend private school, schooling costs are typically split.

However, if only one parent wishes the child to go to an expensive private school, and the expense was not included in the Judgment of Divorce or parenting agreement, the court may consider additional factors to the best interest of the child, including income and standard of living.

In these cases, the parent who wishes to have the child attend private school may be responsible for covering the costs.

Making the Right Choices for Your Family Can Be Difficult

If you’re looking for a Rochester Hills divorce lawyer, choose The Law Office of Stephanie Krane-Boehmer. During your divorce, you will need to make a lot of important decisions. Custody arrangements, division of assets, schooling decisions, parenting time, vacations, finances…everything will change. You can count on my experience and expertise to help guide you through your divorce, and help you make the right choices for your family. If you’re considering divorce, reach out to me for a free consultation.

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