Back to school: how do co-parents decide?

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When schools closed back in March, there was a mixture of both relief and worry amongst parents. Yes, it was the right thing to do for our children’s health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, but how were parents supposed to balance their own jobs with home schooling?

The government has now announced that some schools will reopen on 1st June, and it’s left the nation divided between those worrying it’s not safe to do so and those eager to get their children back into education.

There will be many conversations happening across UK households regarding sending children back to school and whether one should follow government guidance or make their own call. This is a tough conversation to have, let alone in situations where separated or co-parents need to try to come to some sort of agreement.

Do I have to send my child to school?

In the UK, it’s not currently compulsory for any parent to send their child to school. Schools may reopen but that doesn’t mean an end to home-schooling if preferred.

Of course, many parents do not have the luxury of such a choice. The children of key workers, for example, have continued to attend school during the lockdown.

We can’t agree on whether to send our child back to school or not. Who gets to decide?

In the first instance, the child’s parents could attend mediation to have further discussion about the child returning to school and try to agree a way forward. It may be that once both parents have had the opportunity to voice their concerns, in an appropriate environment, they are better placed to agree what is best for their child.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then it can often prove helpful to see if an agreement can be reached with the assistance of family solicitors. You would discuss your concerns with your solicitor who would then provide you with detailed legal advice. Your solicitor could then set out your concerns and proposals to the other parent or their solicitor, which will start the process of negotiation. It may be that an agreement can’t be reached straight away. However, by having an experienced family solicitor at your side, you are more likely to be able to reach an agreement sooner rather than later.

Failing that, an application could be issued with the court to deal with this specific issue. The court’s paramount concern is the child’s welfare and what is in that particular child’s best interests. The court will have to take into account a number of factors, such as whether the child/household is shielding or self-isolating. The court will also have to take into account what education provision is in place if that child is not attending school.

Government advice on schools re-opening and what measures should be put in place is ever-changing so we’d advise you to ensure that you access the most up-to-date advice from the government.

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My child is being sent back to school without my consent. What can I do?

If your child is currently being sent to school without your consent, we’d advise that you contact us as a matter of urgency so that we can obtain further information from you and provide you with more specific advice.

Contact our child law solicitors today

If you’re a parent who is concerned about their child being taken back to school against your wishes, or for further information on childcare arrangements, call our specialist family law solicitors on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.


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