Tucson, AZ asked in Family Law and Education Law for Arizona

Q: My husband and I have a dispute about which school to send our child to. What happens in terms of legal matters?

If no one is willing to compromise, what will end up happening in terms of the law?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mike Branum
Mike Branum
  • Saint George, UT
  • Licensed in Arizona

A: The first thing to do is review your divorce decree and/or child custody order. If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent decides where the child goes to school. This would be unusual. Joint legal custody is the norm. In some instances, however, a decree or order will indicate that the parents share joint legal custody, but one parent has final say in regards to certain issues like education. If one parent is given final say in your documents, that parent decides where the child goes to school.

If your documents simply indicate joint legal custody, then the two of you are expected to work together to provide for the best interests of the child. If you take the matter in front of a judge, they will determine what THEY believe to be in the child's best interest. Depending on the age of the child, the child's preference may bear some weight as well.

Litigating matters like where a child will attend school are expensive and time-consuming. The Court will require you to attend mediation (which you could elect to do without being ordered to do so, sometimes an neutral third party can help parents compromise) and the process could take some time to resolve.

If the child has been attending a school and one of you is attempting to change the status quo, the parent looking to change things will bear the burden of proving that the change is in the child's best interest and that whatever advantage is gained by the change outweighs the negative aspects of the change itself.

I strongly encourage the two of you to work this out between yourselves and avoid getting the court system involved. Not only do these types of disputes impede the court's ability to spend limited resources on cases with a greater need, but the two of you working together to act in the child's best interest sets a great example for your child in his or her future relationships with others.

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