Joint Custody and School Decisions in Arizona


A quality education is one of the most important things that your child can receive. It is often why some parents are willing to pay for their child to go to private school, so they can be sure that their child is receiving the kind of education that will help them become successful as they get older and provide them with better opportunities.

While most parents would agree that a quality education is essential, what constitutes the best education for a child is an entirely different issue. This can become blurred when the parents are divorced and one parent disagrees with the other on what would be the right choice for their child’s future.

If you and your family need help mediating school decisions, give us a call at (480) 467-4348 or fill out a form online.

Joint Custody and School Decisions Become More Difficult With Time

In most divorce settlements, decisions about education are mutually agreed upon. In the vast majority of cases, the children were already in school at the time when the couple filed for divorce, so making a decision on where the children would go to school was virtually irrelevant.

There are also instances where one parent has primary custody, and is the one that has sole authority to determine the educational direction of the children. In this case, whichever parent has that right is able to choose where the children will go to school.

However, there are those instances where both parents have a say in the decision-making process, and are not able to find common ground on decisions. This frequently happens when the divorce occurred during the time where the children were in elementary school, but now that they have reached high school age the decisions are a bit more complicated.

This can also happen when the parent who has the children for the majority of the time moves, and a new school is needed to be chosen. Neither parent may know much about the school district that the children will now be living in, so making an informed decision can be a challenging one, to say the least.

Both Parents Deserve a Voice

One of the myths commonly associated with these kinds of cases is that the parent who is the primary custodian of the children believes that he or she can make the decision arbitrarily. Since the children are with them most of the time, they do not need to consult the other parent before making a decision. However, that is not the case at all.

Unless one parent has full custody of the children, an agreement must be reached between both parents in order for a decision about the education of the children to be made. This makes great sense when you think about it. The education of the children is one of the most important decisions, so courts have found it necessary for both parents to be involved in this decision-making process.

What makes this matter even more complicated is when the primary custodial parent expects the other parent to pay for the child’s education. This isn’t always a problem, if the amount of child support the other parent is paying can cover the cost of education then nothing has changed. However, if the cost of attending a specific school (such as a private school or charter school) exceeds the court ordered amount then both parents need to find a way to cover the difference.

A Mediator Can Help Make These Decisions

The reality is that these kinds of cases often do not get resolved easily. Both parents can become quite entrenched in their position, refusing to budge one inch. The result is that a mediator is needed to resolve the problem.

Much like when you appeared for mediation during your divorce or appeared before a judge during this process, you can also be brought before a mediator to determine which school will be chosen for the child or children. This is not the preferred way to go, but it may be the only option available if two parents are unable to reach an agreement.

No matter what your thoughts are regarding where your children should go to school, it is important that you prepare yourself for this kind of mediation, much in the same way you did for your divorce. Understand that this mediator can rule against you and obligate you to a number of things, including paying for the education.

As part of that mediation, you are allowed to have an attorney. You knew you needed one as part of your divorce, and you should consider getting one here as well. Once again, this is a place where decisions will be made about your children that could affect you directly, so you want to be as prepared as possible. Also, an attorney can help you both before the preceding and during the mediation itself.

You should make sure that you have all documents necessary to support whatever argument you are making. If the one parent is demanding that you pay the educational costs for the children, but you know you can’t afford this, you should provide the court with sufficient evidence to prove that this would put a hardship on you that would make it impossible for you to live. This may require pay stubs, bank records, tax records, and other documentation to prove that you are not in a financial situation to support this kind of cost.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to hire a lawyer today.

Contact Our Family Law Team

Call (480) 467-4348 or fill out the form to schedule your consultation and discuss your best legal options.