Which Parent Decides Where The Kids Go To School?


My ex-wife and I have 50/50 legal and physical custody of our 4-year-old daughter. My ex wants to send her to private school, but I would rather she attend the local public school near me. Both schools have great reputations.

What can we do to resolve this disagreement?


While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and cannot give you legal advice, I can give some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.

Where I do practice in Pennsylvania, when the parents have shared legal custody they are expected to jointly make decisions on behalf of the child concerning the child’s major life decisions such as religious upbringing, education, medical decisions, and the like. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5322(a). The typical presumption with shared legal custody is that one parent cannot make a decision unilaterally, to the exclusion of the other parent.

When there are disputes over something a straight-forward as selecting a school, you oftentimes see parties attempt to work the matter out through mediation. While Pennsylvania offers mediation opportunities through the litigation process, there is also the ability of the parents to hire a private mediator to work through their issues so as to not cause any grief for the child. A private mediator may be hired without instituting litigation.

Pennsylvania divorce attorney William Phelan
Cordell & Cordell Pennsylvania divorce attorney William Phelan, IV

If a legal custody decision cannot ultimately be agreed upon by the parents, one of them may—upon filing the proper pleading with the Court — ask a judge to issue an order regarding the schooling issue. When making a decision about custody, the judge is directed to perform a best interest analysis. Pennsylvania courts are required to look at 16 factors to determine what custody award is in the best interest of the child. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328(a).

Due to the sensitive and extremely fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction, such as Cordell & Cordell, to see how your state’s laws can specifically help you with this serious situation. This type of attorney should be helpful in providing you specific assistance for your matter.

Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in California and how they particularly impact your potential case.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Pennsylvania divorce lawyer William J. Phelan, IV, contact Cordell & Cordell.

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