Divorce can be a difficult and emotional time for everyone involved, especially for children. One of the biggest challenges for divorced parents is making educational decisions for their shared children. When parents are no longer together, issues like where their children will attend school, who pays for private school tuition or daycare, and what educational programs the child will participate in can become a source of conflict.
In this blog post, we will explore how divorced parents can manage educational decisions for their shared children and how to resolve disputes when they arise.
Different Types of Custody in Tennessee
In the state of Tennessee, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child primarily resides, while legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child's welfare. In the case of decisions surrounding a child’s education, the parent’s legal custody is what matters generally. When parents have joint legal custody, both parties make decisions together. However, when one parent has sole legal custody, they are the primary decision-maker.
Common Education-Related Issues That Come Up Between Co-Parents
It is common for divorced parents to face issues surrounding their children's education. Some common problems include disagreements over which school the child should attend, disputes about paying for private schools or extracurricular activities, and decisions about educational interventions such as tutoring or therapy. These issues can be especially challenging when parents have different viewpoints on how a child’s education should be handled or when the child is struggling academically.
It is not uncommon for co-parents to disagree about the following educational issues:
- Where a child will go to school
- What extracurricular activities or sports a child will participate in
- What interventions should be made when a child is struggling academically
- How behavioral or disciplinary issues related to the school should be handled
- How disputes with the school or teachers should be managed
Turning to Your Parenting Plan
When parents disagree about important educational decisions, referring to the parenting plan you drafted during your divorce can be helpful. A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how many parenting issues will be dealt with and frequently includes provisions regarding educational decisions. A parenting plan may also include provisions regarding dispute resolution methods the couple prefers, such as mediation or arbitration, or whether one parent will be given the final say over certain issues.
If you are going through a divorce and are drafting a parenting plan, it is recommended that you consider including the following:
- Your current plans for your child’s education, including what schools you prefer they attend
- How you and your co-parent will pay for school and school-related expenses, including tutoring and other academic interventions that may become necessary in the future
- How extracurricular activities will be paid for
- Whether one parent has the final say in educational decisions
- Preferred communication methods and expectations regarding the child’s academic progress
With comprehensive planning and an understanding of each party's concerns, a parenting plan can ensure that both parents feel heard while ensuring their child’s best interests are taken into account when it comes to their education. By thinking ahead and including specific provisions for settling disputes, parents can reduce the likelihood of future conflicts, especially when dealing with the stress of making important academic decisions for their child.
When to Get an Attorney Involved
When it comes to an education-related dispute between co-parents, it is important to consider when the best time is to get an attorney involved. Generally speaking, if you cannot come to a mutual agreement with your co-parent, it may be in your best interest to bring in legal assistance. If a major dispute arises, such as a disagreement leading to a parent not abiding by their custody agreement, an attorney can provide valuable guidance and advice on how best to move forward. Additionally, if either parent has questions about their parental rights or responsibilities, they should contact an attorney.
Ultimately, if you find yourself in a situation where there is a dispute between you and your co-parent that cannot be resolved amicably or without outside help, it is wise to seek out an experienced attorney, like ours at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC, who can work with you towards finding a resolution. With patience and cooperation, you can help your child thrive academically and emotionally during this difficult time.