There isn’t a short answer on who decides which school a child attends after a Colorado divorce. Neither parent automatically gets to choose the school if they disagree on school selection and if they have joint legal custody. Given that, let’s look at the legal factors that go into making this major decision.
School Choice in the Parenting Plan
As separating parents go through divorce and child custody proceedings, they are required to create a parenting plan that outlines their agreements regarding the child’s upbringing. The parenting plan may specify which school their child will attend. Many divorcing spouses in Colorado enlist the help of a mediator to work out disagreements in crafting their parenting plan.
These are some vital factors that divorcing parents should consider when selecting their child’s school:
- Continuity. If the child has been attending a certain grade school or middle school, for example, it’s worth considering the continuity of their social environment by choosing the same school or one within the same district.
- Majority residence. With which parent will the child spend most of their time? It would make sense for the child to be enrolled near the residence where the child mostly lives. However, other factors in this list may prevent this from being the most ideal option.
- Child’s specific needs and aptitudes. If the child has special needs, particular aptitudes, or advanced learning levels, the parents will want to enroll them to a school that specifically caters to these factors.
If the child’s schooling is already set in the parenting plan and made legally binding through a child custody order, any dispute from either parent would have to be done through a court petition.
However, not all parenting plans have clear language on where the child should be educated. Non-specific parenting plans can give rise to more complicated disputes regarding parental decision-making. If this is your situation, you’ll want to get in touch with a child custody attorney as your case may go to court.
Having the Court Decide on Where the Child Goes to School
Colorado has no statute that mandates which party has the final say regarding a child’s schooling post-divorce, except to the extent that one parent has sole decision making, the parents are left with the need for a tie breaker if they have joint decision making and cannot agree on the school for the child. For this issue, case law or court decisions from previous cases guide a court’s ruling. Based on the Marriage of Thomas Court of Appeals decision in 2021, the current rule in Colorado is that the trial court can decide regarding the child’s education.
Some parents may resort to this option if they are in a deadlock regarding parenting decisions. The court, however, has cautioned in the past that it is not the most ideal party to make decisions on behalf of parents. In the 1985 case of Griffin vs. Griffin, the Colorado Supreme Court stated that courts are “stranger[s] to both child and parents, [and] ill-equipped to understand and act upon the needs of the child.”
If your parenting dispute does proceed to court, the judge will have to weigh various factors in deciding where the child should be enrolled. These factors may include:
- The child’s current standard of living
- The transportation and other logistics in going to school every day
- Each parent’s level of involvement in the child’s schooling
- Each parent’s level of understanding of the school system
- Child-specific considerations to match with a school (such as extracurricular interests, sports, special needs, and the like).
A court dispute can be time-consuming, costly, and stressful. It’s ideal for separated parents to come to an amicable agreement regarding their child’s upbringing, but if that is not possible, the guidance of a child custody attorney may help ensure the child’s best interests.
Call an Experienced Child Custody Attorney in Colorado
The attorneys at Goldman Law have over 25 years of combined experience in divorce, child custody, child support, and similar Family Law issues. We prioritize the best interests of your child while upholding your parental rights. For our high-quality legal service, we have earned top ratings from professional bodies in the field of Family Law and from our satisfied clients throughout Colorado.
Talk to us about your child custody concern. Call Goldman Law today at (303) 656-9529.