Moving Your Child to Another School After Splitting Up

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

When a couple with children splits up, a common problem is: where do the kids go to school? If the parents are just living down the road from each other or they live in the same school district, then this isn’t usually an issue. However, a much more common situation is where the parents end up living in different school districts or if parents disagree about which school to send their children to. This means that your children could suddenly end up changing schools due to a disagreement.

Moving Out of State with Child Custody

Courts tend to look at a sudden change children’s school as a bad thing and will do what they can to avoid it. Often, primary custody will be awarded to the parent who remains in the school district. This is because the primary goal of Courts is usually to minimize disruption to the children. Courts will usually try to keep kids in the same home and school if possible.

This causes people to act oddly sometimes. For example, in a family where one spouse stays at home and the other works, the stay-at-home spouse will often try to stay in the home. This maximizes his or her chances of getting custody, even though there is no way that she/he can afford to live there in the long term. It would make more sense for him/her to move to a less expensive place, but I would advise him/her not to because of custody concerns.

Separation as an Excuse

Some parents use a separation as an excuse to move far away from the other parent. Maybe the motivation is to get the distance. Sometimes the motivation is to be closer to a family. Other times the motivation is just to spite the other party. But, getting up and moving the kids out of their school and into a new school without the permission of the other parent is a bad idea in most cases.

I have encountered many cases where a party will move the children to another school without first speaking with the other parent. I have also experienced clients dealing with separation poorly and using their child(ren) like chess pieces to get what they want. Courts tend to frown on any parent that demonstrates their inability to co-parent or to work and communicate with the other parent about the child(ren).

The lesson is the same here as it always is: put your kids first. If splitting up is in their best interests, fine. But be sure to minimize the disruption that comes with that by trying to keep their lives as unchanged as possible, at least in the short term. Courts want children to be the most unaffected by the litigation around them. Courts prefer that children remain enrolled at school (and live where they have lived) 6 months prior to the date of filing of the suit. In other words, do not move with your child unless it is completely necessary.

In the long term, it is fine for kids to change schools and even move. That happens all the time in our society, and actually can be a positive. Just be patient when splitting up, not only for your kids but also for the sake of your custody case.

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