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Who decides where children go to school when parents disagree?

Many children attend public schools, and the address where they live typically determines which school within a school district they must attend. Some families decide that they would prefer to have their children attend charter schools. There are also many families that pay to enroll their children at private educational institutions, often because a particular institution has an association with the family’s religion. The school that children attend determines not just the caliber of education they receive but also the peer-based networking opportunities they have access to.

Parents may have very different ideas about the best educational options for their children, which can certainly make shared custody arrangements more challenging to navigate. Who decides what school the children attend when the parents who share custody in Virginia cannot agree?

Parents may need to go back to court

The authority to decide where the children attend school stems from legal custody. The Virginia family courts will typically expect parents to share legal custody if they share physical custody or time with the children. Parents usually have the authority to make certain short-term decisions while with their children. For major decisions, like school enrollment, there is an expectation that those with shared legal custody will reach an agreement. They may need to sit down and have a lengthy conversation about what would be best for the children in order to reach a decision that they both agree is appropriate.

Sometimes, parents will find agreeing on educational matters frankly impossible. In that situation, the only option may be to go back to family court. A judge can look over the details of the situation and make a determination about what educational arrangements they believe would be in the best interests of the children.

When there is a need to litigate a decision-making matter related to educational options, there’s never any guarantee about how the courts will rule. Understanding that going back to court may be the only means of resolving a protracted parenting conflict may help some adults compromise with each other or will at least help someone understand what to expect when education-related issues arise in a shared custody scenario in Virginia.

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