School selection disputes are on the rise as more parents are sharing the responsibilities of parenting post-divorce. But what happens when parents live within different school boundaries? Or, they just do not agree where the child should attend school? Charter schools, religious schools, online schools, the choices are many. Should one parent have the authority to override the other?
In situations where parents share joint legal custody of a child, each parent has equal decision making authority. Schools must be selected jointly. When parents disagree, one parent often heads to Court and asks the Judge to make the final decision. The overriding consideration is which school is best for the child or children at issue. In a recent case decided by the Nevada Supreme Court, the Court noted that “the school that accords with the child's best interest does not necessarily mean the most expensive or the highest ranked school; it means the school best tailored to the needs of the particular child.” So, don't put rely too heavily on websites or online resources that rate schools based upon their own independent criteria. Or, rely on reviews from other parents or non-experts. The Court will want to hear more specifically why School A is better or worse for your particular child than School B. Courts want to hear about a child's specific educational needs, the curriculum or method of teaching utilized at the school, past performance of a child at a particular school, the academic and/or extracurricular offerings at each school, how well the child will adapt to an unfamiliar environment, etc. While the Court will consider the length of commute to each school and other logistical concerns such as school start and dismissal times, availability of safe-key, etc., those are not the only considerations. The Las Vegas valley has grown extensively, and a 30-45 minute commute each morning or afternoon is typically not best for a child -- or attending a school outside their neighborhood peer group, etc.
In the end, each case will boil down to a very fact specific analysis by the Judge. And, Courts are required to hear all the evidence at an evidentiary hearing, so these types of disputes take time (often 6 months) and cost money to litigate. Because the case will require more than one court hearing, anyone looking to change or dispute a school placement for the upcoming school year should be contacting their attorney in the Spring of the prior year to ensure that the Court has sufficient time to process the case to a decision.
If you are divorced and having a dispute regarding where your child should attend school, please call the Law Office of Gregory Gordon to discuss your options with Mr. Gordon. Mr. Gordon has litigated numerous school choice disputes over the past 26 years, and has extensive experience handling these types of cases.