Back to school – but what if you cannot agree which school? Decisions are often difficult for separated parents who have their own ideas, their own agendas, their own budgets or their own preferences. Deciding which school a child should attend - private or state – one Ofstead preferred school or another – can be difficult and at times can be a dispute incapable of resolution between parents.
Generally all parents have parental responsibility for their children, whether married or not, and that means major decisions in a child’s life, such as choice of school, medical treatment, or religion have to be made jointly. When parents are separated that can lead to disagreement.
In the case of dispute parents might initially consider mediation as a means to trying to resolve the dispute. Where that is not successful, (or where mediation is not suitable), one or other parent can apply to the court for a specific issue order under the Children Act 1989 for the court to resolve that dispute.
A specific issue order can address many issues arising between parents in connection with their exercise of parental responsibility. Choice of school is just one example. Others might include whether or not to have a child christened, whether a child should undergo a certain medical procedure, or even whether a child should go on holiday abroad with the other parent.
The court’s role will be to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Neither parent has any rights. The court is only interested in what is best for the child.
An experienced solicitor has often seen disputes of this type before. We can usually advise as to the likely outcome of any such application to the court thus avoiding unnecessary and sometimes expensive proceedings. We can often negotiate a way forward which comprises the dispute so that the child is not prejudiced but both parents take some benefit from the outcome.
In case of such disputes concerning a child early advice is beneficial. All our initial meetings are at no charge and we might avoid unnecessary confrontation between parents or uncertainty for a child.
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