Going through divorce is especially hard when there are children involved, even when you try to stay amicable. School-age children often live with one parent most of the time to minimise disruption, with that parent overseeing the children’s daily lives. So how can you keep involved in school experience?
From assemblies to leaving days, sports days to nativity plays, your child’s school days are precious. If you have separated amicably, you may be able to go along to such events together. If not, then try to agree which event each of you will go to.
Problems at school
If your child experiences problems at school such as learning concerns or social issues you may want your opinions heard. By supporting each other and presenting a united front the outcome will be much better for your child.
Choosing a school for your children’s education
Which school a child attends can be an emotive subject for separated parents. It’s not just about Ofsted ratings. Equally important is whether the child walks or takes a bus to school, and if their friends are going there. Choices have to be made when a child moves from primary to secondary, or secondary to Sixth Form.
If your child is to attend a private school, you must agree what each parent is expected to do to make this possible, whether that’s paying fees, buying uniforms or funding activities.
Parental Responsibility (PR)
The parent with PR has the legal right to make decisions about admission, attendance at parents’ evenings, school trips, access to records and issues such as suspension or exclusion.
Mothers automatically have PR; fathers only have it if they were married to the mother when the child was born or are named on the birth certificate and the child was born on or after December 1st 2003. A father can apply for PR. If an order is made, the birth certificate can be amended. Alternatively, the father and the mother can agree for both to have PR, which is registered by amending the birth certificate.
Most schools have a ‘separated parents’ policy’ outlining the expectations from the school, staff and separated parents. A school usually prefers both to be involved and share information about their child.
No school can restrict one parent’s participation if the other requests this unless there is a specific court order. If your child lives with their other parent and you are not receiving information, ask the school for separate communication. If you still feel you aren’t involved, a family law solicitor will be able to help.
At the end of the day, the best option is to work together to make sure your children’s education is a positive experience for all of you.
Mary-Ann Wanjiku is a solicitor in The Family Law Company’s domestic abuse and children law team based in Exeter.
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