It’s back to school time, and while most parents and children are gearing up for another school year, some families are in limbo this time of year. If two separated or divorced parties cannot agree upon where their child should attend school and they share legal custody, one party must seek Court intervention to make a decision as to school choice. Legal custody means the right to make decisions about the child, in contrast to physical custody, which indicates in whose home the child resides. School choice and issues related to a child’s education are legal custody issues. The majority of parents share legal custody and must make these educational decisions together.
Typically, if parents reside in different school districts, and if one parent has primary physical custody, then the child will attend school in the district of the primary custodian. However, problems arise when parents share physical custody equally and reside in different districts. The Court will make a decision based on the custody factors set forth in 23 PaCSA Section 5328 and the best interest of the child. Note the fact that if one parent’s school district is ranked “higher” or holds more accolades than the other parent’s district, this does not necessarily mean that the child will attend the higher ranked district.
If you anticipate that school choice will be an issue, you should speak with an attorney in the spring, prior to the start of the school year. If you wait until late summer, depending on the Court’s busy calendar, you risk not having a decision prior to the commencement of the school year.
If you have a question about Custody or any Divorce and Domestic Relations issue, please contact the Divorce and Domestic Relations Team of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky’s in Pittsburgh at (412) 281-5423.