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Should home-schooling affect child custody rulings?

The standard that family court judges in Virginia use when they have to settle a child support dispute is, what is in the best interests of the child? This focus on the child's safety, health, education and cultural needs has been widely accepted throughout the United States.

Much of the time, determining the best custody arrangement is more of an art than a science. The judge must decide, based in large part on the evidence presented by the parents, whom to grant majority custody.

Few would disagree that education is an important part of any child's upbringing. If one parent seems to make education a low priority, it could hurt his or her case. However, it appears that judges around the country are struggling to determine whether home schooling can fulfill a child's educational needs as sending him or her to a traditional school.

As home schooling has become more and more common, the issue has come up in several child custody cases. Some judges have expressed a preference for the parent that wants to send the child to traditional school. They have emphasized the socialization aspect of going to a classroom full of other children as being superior to the allegedly isolating home school experience.

One judge even claimed that a mother who wanted to home-school her daughters was preparing them "for the Fifteenth Century, not the Twenty-First Century." That judge's custody decision was overturned on appeal.

Because issues like how to educate a child and what religion, if any, to raise them in are so vital, parents with different views may have a hard time coming to an agreement. A family law attorney can help parents in this situation advocate their wishes, and hopefully reach a fair conclusion.

Source: The Washington Post, "Home schooling and child custody," Eugene Volokh, Aug. 18, 2014

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