School applications: what happens when parents can’t agree?

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Sending your child off to school for the first time can be exciting and deciding on what school that is can be one of the biggest decisions you make as a family.

From location to Ofsted ratings and even the child’s preference, there are many things to consider when deciding on the best school for your child, so it’s no surprise that disagreements can quickly arise between separated parents.

In this blog, our child law solicitors look at what happens when co-parents can’t agree on which school their child should go to.

Who gets to decide which school our child attends?

Technically speaking, whoever has parental responsibility has a say in which school their child should attend. In most cases, both parents will have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility relates to who has the rights and responsibilities to make decisions about a child’s care. This includes day-to-day decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education.

It is also possible to have parental responsibility without being a legal parent. For example, you may have care of a child born to a family member under a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order. This would grant you parental responsibility alongside their birth parents. Alternatively, a step-parent can be granted parental responsibility alongside the legal parents in certain circumstances.

If both separated parents have parental responsibility and can’t reach a joint decision, there are various options available.

We can’t agree on where to send our child to school. How do we decide?

As with any disagreement or dispute, the best place to start is mediation. This informal process involves both parents meeting face-to-face or remotely to discuss the issue, with a trained mediator on hand to facilitate the conversion and attempt to help both parties agree.

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 on what is best for their child.

If an agreement cannot be reached, it could be helpful to speak to a family solicitor who specialises in child law about your concerns and the next steps. They will set out your concerns and proposals to the other parent or their solicitor, which will start the negotiation process. It may be that an agreement can’t be reached straight away. However, having an experienced family solicitor at your side means you are more likely to reach an agreement sooner rather than later.

If this does not resolve the matter, an application could be issued to 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. Several factors will be taken into account, such as where the child lives or any additional needs they may have.

Asking the court to decide what school your child should go to is a decision that should not be taken lightly. The mere mention of court action can heighten emotions and add to the conflict. Our specialist child law solicitors will always endeavour to help co-parents reach an agreement amicably and outside of court where possible.

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

If your child is currently being sent to a school without your consent, we would advise that you contact us urgently so that we can discuss the precise circumstances of your matter and advise you on the options available to you.

Contact our child law solicitors today

If are struggling to agree with your ex-partner about your child’s education, or your child has been taken to a school against your wishes, we can help.

Call our child law solicitors on 0117 253 0341 or complete our online enquiry form.


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