Back to School Bedlam

By Kiara Bergh |09 February 2023 |Parenting Arrangements and Disputes-Articles

Back to School Bedlam

Children are returning to school across the country. It’s typically a time filled with a mix of excitement, fear and nerves – especially for those that are only just starting school or taking the next step to high school. Schooling can be an issue of significant debate amongst parents, and it often arises at the start of a new school year. So, what do you need to think about when enrolling your children in school?

Typically, a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility will apply when parents separate. This means that both parents have an equal say in major decisions in their children’s lives. A “major decision” includes the child’s schooling. As such, when determining what school your child will attend, parents should consult each other and reach an agreement before proceeding with an enrolment. But… what happens when parents can’t agree?

If parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves about their child’s school, the next step would be to engage a solicitor to facilitate direct negotiations between the parties. If this is unsuccessful, the parties would then be required to attend a mediation to discuss the issue. Parents can attend a mediation with a government-funded organisation, such as Family Relationship Centre or Relationships Australia, or elect to engage a private mediator. At the mediation, with the assistance of a mediator, it would be the hope that parents can ultimately agree on what school the child will attend. If they cannot, the next step would likely be a court application.

If it is necessary to seek the court’s assistance to determine which school the child will attend, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests when ordering what school the child will attend. To assist the court in making this decision, each party will need to provide evidence in support of their respective position with respect to the school they say the child should attend. This will be presented in the form of an affidavit and could relate to factors such as the school’s performance, proximity to each parent’s residence, the child’s living arrangements and the child’s ability to adjust to attending a particular school. Upon considering this evidence, the court will then make orders requiring the child’s attendance at a particular school. This order must be followed and (unless successfully appealed, which is unlikely) can only be varied by agreement between the parents.

Ideally, parents should try and agree upon what school the child will attend. Parents know their children far better than any judge or registrar or the court. It is almost always preferred that parents discuss their child’s needs and interests and reach an agreement, whether that be through direct negotiations or a mediation, without the court making the decision for them.

If there is disagreement with respect to where your child should go to school, one of our family lawyers can help. To discuss your options and a way forward, contact our BrisbaneIpswichNorth LakesToowoomba or Dalby offices today by phoning 07 4639 0000 or emailing us at [email protected].

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