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When Divorced Parents Disagree Over Whether Their Child Should Return to School This Fall


As the summer winds down and kids get ready for the 2020-2021 school year, most Florida school districts are providing parents with the option to decide whether to send their kids to school in-person or continue with online learning, as they did during the second half of the spring. However, just as the coronavirus has brought a number of novel questions and challenges for some divorced parents, it will also inevitably bring disagreements for some on this issue. Inevitably, some divorced parents will feel strongly about their child not risking exposure by physically attending school in-person, while others will feel the exact opposite and insist that they must attend in-person.

Look at The Parenting Plan

Looking at the parenting plan to see if it specifically addresses an issue is the first step to answering questions like these. If, for example, a parenting plan specifies that one parent will make exclusive decisions concerning the child’s education, that parent will likely have the right to make this decision.

Going to Court

However, while Florida law dictates that certain issues must be addressed in parenting plans, such as which address will be used for the child’s school determination and registration, this does not mean that the plan also addresses what happens if there is a pandemic and a child’s parents disagree over whether the child should attend school in-person or online.

When parents share custody, parenting plans often indicate that both parents have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, therefore COVID-19 has once again presented another novel challenge for divorced parents, where the law does not provide specific guidance because an issue like this hasn’t come up before. As a result, any divorced parents who disagree and cannot otherwise find a middle ground will have to go before a judge, who will make the decision based on what is in the best interest of the child; a determination made by evaluating a number of factors that are laid out in Florida law.

Exploring Mediation to Get Around Backlogged Courts

It is very likely that disagreements over this issue alone are going to flood the courts, which are already backlogged due to COVID-19. This has brought some parents a significant amount of concern because they are worried that these disputes could negatively affect their child’s learning. As a result, some might be interested in exploring the possibility of reaching an agreement before they have the opportunity to go before a judge–possibly through mediation–especially as the courts start to demonstrate a pattern in deciding these cases; a pattern that allows for some predictions regarding case resolutions and outcomes.  For example, some have already predicted that those who are opposed to sending the child to school due to COVID-19, and who are up against a parent who wants the child in school in-person, may have the more difficult argument because they will likely have to provide some evidence that the school could expose the child to the virus.

If You Are a Divorced Parent with Concerns About Your Child Due to A School-Related Disagreement, Or Have Any Other Family Law Questions or Concerns, Contact The Best in Florida Family Law

These issues are never easy to resolve on your own, especially during a pandemic. They also often give rise to additional issues; for example, one parent might refuse to participate in their child’s online/remote learning, leaving the other parent with no choice but to have their custody schedule adjusted in order to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met.

Our West Palm Beach family attorney is here to help. Contact the office of William Wallshein, P.A.today to find out how we can use our family law and mediation skills to ensure that your interests are protected.






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