It's that bitter-sweet time of year again when children are dreading the return to school and parents are relishing the same. The transition from summertime leisure to school time bustle can be stressful enough without adding to the mix parental conflict about which school a child will attend. When unmarried parents with joint custody can't resolve the dilemma, a court will. The guidelines for how a court should make the decision was set forth in the seminal case of Pierron v. Pierron.
The court in Pierron determined that one parent cannot unilaterally decide to move a child from one school district to another, and determined that even when a change in school did not result in a change of custody, a court is required to use the relevant best interest factors test. When making this decision, the court stated, "A decision concerning the child's schooling and education is just such an important decision affecting the welfare of the child."
Education and the Child's Best Interest
When determining the best interests of the child, courts look at a variety of factors, some of which include:
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference
A court is not required to consider all 12 best interest factors if it does not determine that all 12 factors are relevant.
Major life changes such as relocating or a child changing schools require careful planning and preparation. It is imperative to plan well in advance of the school season if parents are unable to resolve a school conflict. Such motions should be filed as early in the summer as possible to ensure that the children and the parents have adequate time to enroll the child in the new school and adjust to the change. If you have shared custody of your child and have questions about a future relocation, do not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.