Which parent picks the school their children attend is sometimes more complicated than parents anticipate. When it comes to divorce or paternity proceedings in Oklahoma, one of the most critical decisions couples with children must make involves child custody and the subsequent considerations that come with it. A pivotal issue within this realm is determining which school your child should attend. Many times while a child is under the school age parents’ don’t see this issue coming. Only after the child reaches school age and the parents have shared custody does the potential problem come to light.
Understanding Oklahoma Child Custody Laws
In Oklahoma, as in most states, the best interest of the child is paramount when deciding custody matters, including educational decisions. Under the Oklahoma Statutes Title 43, Section 112, courts in Oklahoma make custody decisions based on factors that consider the moral, mental, and physical welfare of the child. Although the best interest of the child sounds easy to figure out its not always that simple. When parents cant find the way to a compromise regarding best interest either a mediation or a judge in family court will have to step in.
What’s The Best Interest Of The Child?
In the eyes of the law, the “best interest of the child” standard seeks to ensure the child’s comprehensive wellbeing. This principle takes into account various factors. Some of those include the child’s age, the child’s relationship with their parents, the child’s wishes, if they are old enough and mature enough to articulate them to the court. Additionally, the ability of both parents to provide stable living arrangements, and the child’s adjustment to their current school, community, and home.
If a parent has full custody they are the primary custodian. This means that the child primarily resides with this parent and that they have the responsibility for the day-to-day care and well-being of the child. This custody arrangement is done either by agreement or after a child custody trial. In Oklahoma the family law statutes prefer joint custody. The parent that doesn’t agree with joint custody shoulders the burden of proving why sole custody is in the best interest of the child. You can get full or sole custody of your child in both divorce and paternity cases. If a parent has sole legal and sole physical custody they alone are responsible for deciding which school their child attends.
In Oklahoma, joint child custody, often referred to as joint legal custody and joint physical custody, is a custody arrangement where both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after a divorce or separation. Joint custody is based on the idea that both parents should continue to be actively involved in the child’s life and have a say in important decisions affecting the child. In Oklahoma the courts prefer joint custody regardless of the parents gender. The courts go on to state that the parent that opposes joint custody has the burden of showing why its not in the best interest of the child.
Factors Affecting School Choices Post-Divorce
Deciding which school a child should attend after a divorce or in a paternity case involves several considerations. Among the considerations is the custody arrangement the parents currently have. Additional considerations are dependent on the circumstances of your particular case.
If the child’s parents have joint custody or visitation rights and live in different school districts, the child’s school selection may depend on where the child primarily resides. The proximity to each parent’s home is a also a key consideration. This is really a based on what is practical rather than which parent picks the school. As is easy to understand, if the primary custodian lives close to a school that may be what’s more practical. The important thing here is considering how long it takes to get the child to school and picked up on a daily basis. For a parent that lives in a different school district transporting the child may prove to be a real problem. This does not mean it cant be done only that it is a big consideration that’s included in school choice.
Educational Quality is Important
When deciding which parent picks the school courts may also consider the quality of the potential schools. Quality is assessed based on factors such as class size, teacher-student ratio, school resources, and the school’s overall reputation. Although the courts do not want to get in to a class conflict pertaining to what school is better there are some objective factors that the court may consider.
Child’s Current Situation and Preferences
If the child is currently enrolled and thriving in a school, courts may be hesitant to disrupt this continuity unless there are compelling reasons. Additionally, if the child is old enough and mature enough, their preference may be taken into account. What’s in the best interest of the child may just come down to where the child has gone to school in the recent past. It may also come down to keeping the child at a school where the child is comfortable and has been performing well to date.
The Role Of The Parenting Plan In Determining The Child’s School
In Oklahoma, a parenting plan is required for any case involving custody or visitation. This plan should include provisions for resolving disputes between the parents about decisions such as which school the child will attend. Once again, this entails anticipating milestones in parenting that you will face in the future. Because your child is not in school yet doesn’t mean that the parenting plan doesn’t address the eventuality.
Creating A Child-Focused Parenting Plan
A well-structured parenting plan should keep the child’s best interests at the forefront. Its part of a well drafted child custody order. Your family law attorney will draft this plan as part of your custody case. Here’s how to ensure your parenting plan supports the best educational outcomes for your child:
Consider the Child’s Routine
Aim to cause as little disruption as possible to the child’s daily routine, including school schedules, after-school activities, and social life. Uprooting your child and placing them in a different school environment may not be a benefit to them. Courts refer to this a maintaining the status quo. This is not to say that a change is necessarily bad but rather involve your child and make them a stakeholder in the decision. By doing this any transition to a new school will be less disruptive on both parents and children.
Be Specific About School-Related Responsibilities
Clearly outline which parent will be responsible for school-related activities, including parent-teacher meetings, drop-off and pick-up, homework help, tutoring etc. Sometimes its the small things that cause the biggest disruption. Educating your child is often times part of shared parenting. If parents are attempting to co-parent try to discuss with each other what is expected from one another. Don’t forget to consider what goals you both have for your child’s education and personal development.
Plan for Future Changes
As your child grows, their schooling needs and preferences may change. Build flexibility into your plan to accommodate changes in schooling decisions and activities. Because a child isn’t interested in a school activity today does not mean that wont change tomorrow. The activity can include both academics and after school activities. Parents have to be flexible and not get caught up in small details that don’t really advance the child’s needs.
Tulsa Okla. Child Custody Near You
Determining Which Parent Picks The School your child attends in a child custody situation is a critical decision that can shape your child’s future. This decision, like all child custody issues, should be guided by the best interests of the child, as is required by Oklahoma law.
If you’re navigating a custody case in Oklahoma and have concerns about child custody and educational decisions, our experienced family law attorneys can help. Our Oklahoma family law attorneys are committed to helping you create a parenting plan that puts your child’s wellbeing first, ensuring they continue to thrive during and after your divorce. Call Kania Law Office at (918) 743-2233 or contact us online.