When children go back to school, many child custody disputes can arise between parents. Access to school records, back to school night, parent teacher conferences, and report cards can all become subjects of dispute between parents. Parents may also have disputes over which school district the children should be enrolled in or should the children go to a public school, a private school or a parochial school. Understanding the rights and obligations of parents will assist them in addressing these issues and reaching agreements, which is why Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, LLP encourages parents to contact a family lawyer for child custody assistance.

School related issues fall under the umbrella of Legal Custody. Legal Custody is defined under Pennsylvania law as “The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.” 23 Pa.C.S.A. 5322. Definitions.

In most instances, both parents have legal custody of their children. Therefore, when any school related decisions must be made, both parents have a say in the decisions.

Further, schools must recognize the legal custody rights of both parents and are obligated to share with both parents any school related information regarding the children. Both parents have the right to request school records. Both parents should be consulted prior to any educational plans being implemented for the children, such as an IEP or a special reading program.

Another issue which often comes up is where the children will attend school. Both parents must agree upon where the children will attend school and if they cannot, the Court will have to decide the issue. Parents may live in different school districts and each may want the children to attend school in the school district where that parent lives. One parent may want the children to go to a private school or a parochial school as opposed to a public school. Disputes over where the children will attend school should be addressed well in advance of the start of the new school year. Submitting these disputes to the Courts takes time as many courts have to schedule their cases months in advance. Courts are generally reluctant to require a child to change schools in the middle of the school year, so resolving the issue prior to the start of the new school year should always be the goal.

For more information regarding back to school child custody issues, please contact the family law lawyers at Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel, LLP