Educational Decisions for Children After Divorce in Pennsylvania

July 31st, 2018

Educational Decisions for Children After Divorce in PennsylvaniaWhen creating a custody order a court must make decisions regarding both physical custody and legal custody of children. Physical custody dictates who a child lives with and when. The State of Pennsylvania defines legal custody as, “The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.” In general, a court will award both parties joint legal custody, although in some extreme cases courts will award legal custody to only one party.

One legal custody right that frequently causes disputes between parties is the choice of where children will be enrolled in school. If the parties agree where children will be enrolled in school that choice will be written into a custody order by the parties or the court. However, a situation may arise when parents cannot agree on where children should be enrolled in school. This may include disagreements between public schools, private schools, or even homeschooling. If parties are unable to agree where children should be enrolled in school, the court must step in and make that decision.

As with all custodial decisions made by the court, the child’s best interest is always paramount. When forced to choose between schools for children the court will look at a variety of criteria, including, but not limited to, class size, the preferences of the children, continuity of the children’s education, the location of the school, educational rankings, the availability of transportation from the parties’ homes to the schools, any special educational needs of the children, and even the availability of extracurricular activities. In past cases the courts have held that while they do consider the preferences of children and as well as the need for children to have stability and continuity in their education, neither are controlling in the court’s final decision. Additionally, in general, a child’s educational preferences will be weighed more heavily by the court as they grow older. For example, a court may take into account the preferences of a minor in high school more heavily than they would of a child in kindergarten.

One factor that has the most weight in a court’s decision is which party has physical custody of the children the majority of the time. If one party has physical custody of the children the majority of the time, the trial court must give significant weight to the fact that that party will be responsible for duties such as transportation to and from school the majority of the time as well. When determining whether children will attend private school the court must also consider whether the parties are able, and willing, to pay for all tuition and costs associated with attendance.

While a court will examine and weigh a vast number of factors when determining which school children will attend, the court’s final decision will always be based upon the best interest of the children.

The experienced child custody attorneys at Raffaele Puppio can help you with all facets of the custody and child support equation. Contact us today and we will guide you through child custody issues so that you and your children can experience peace of mind during what is often the most difficult time in their lives.