How the Family Court decides which school your child will attend23-November-2015 Family Law By Simone Green
Education and the choice of school can often become a topic of bitter contention between separated parents. Disputes typically are over a public versus private school, a religious versus non-religious school or even the choice of public school based on data obtained from the highest Higher School Certificate rankings.
Naturally, the Court does not have a preference for any particular type of school. Its decision will always depend upon the evidence and what the court considers is in the best interest of the child in all of the circumstances.
The case law tends to suggest, however, that the following factors are a significant consideration by the Court:
- An agreement on a school prior to separation does not carry much weight if circumstances changed after separation
- If one parent disagrees with a religious school, a public school may be favoured by the Court if the child is already “immersed in religion” in their home life
- If the child has strong views about a particular school
- If the child is being bullied
- The convenience of a school for parents is not the primary consideration
- The various rankings of schools or ‘league tables’ is not a consideration
- If the parent proposing the private school is also proposing to pay the fees
A parent proposing an application for a change of school must consider the fact that the Family Courts are slow when considering such decisions and unlikely to make such a decision as an interim order. The application should be made wherever possible with a sufficient time window and should only be made in circumstances where mediation of the issue has failed or is not appropriate.