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How School Designation Can Affect Parenting Plans


Florida is among a growing number of States that orient child custody around parenting plans that provide for shared, and preferably, equal responsibility for childcare and decision-making. Among the most important decisions a parent makes for a child is the school he/she attends, and unless the parents are willing and able to pay for private education, the school the child attends will depend upon the address used for school designation purposes. How complicated this issue can become depends upon a number of factors, but the two primary drivers are the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and how well this issue was addressed in the parenting plan. This issue may not occur to parents initially, especially if the child is younger than school age at the time of divorce, or the parents live close to one another, but circumstances in life change constantly, and a child’s education is one of those matters that parents can quickly disagree over. Parenting plans are complicated documents that cover a lot of material, and it can be easy to overlook issues that will not come into play until the future. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help to avoid the need to return to court to revise or modify the parenting plan, as well as conflict. A discussion of how school designations play into parenting plans, and potential issues that can spark disagreement, will follow below.

School Designation and Decision-Making Responsibility Generally

As noted above, parenting plans are divided into sections that delineate how parents will divide parenting time, how the child’s daily needs will be met, and who will make major child-related decisions. Certain issues are considered pivotal in a child’s development and wellbeing that must be directly addressed in the parenting plan, and explain how decisions will be made when issues arise. The major areas that are specifically listed in Florida law include:

  • Medical care;
  • Education, including which address will be used to determine the geographical school designation; and
  • Other activities, which could include extracurricular interests or a child’s special needs.

While school designation is a mandatory part of a parenting plan, this requirement does not mean the parenting plan will, in fact, stipulate what happens if the parents disagree over which school to attend or a parent moves.

Potential Points of Conflict

Assuming parents have shared decision-making responsibilities, which is common, one parent cannot unilaterally change the child’s school without facing serious consequences, such as contempt of court, fines, and attorney’s fees. If there is a disagreement over changing schools that the parents cannot resolve, the matter should be brought before a court to settle. If parents do not equally share decision-making, there may an issue of the parent with the decision-making authority not using his/her address used for school designation. Schools tend to view the parent with decision-making powers as the one authorized to choose where the child attends school, and the other parent may be forced to fight for his/her right to be used as the school designation address, or concede this major point to the other parent. This issue can become particularly important if the parent with the school designation has the child the majority of the time, as the location of school under the other parent’s address may not be convenient or reasonable. To avoid this situation, the parenting plan should be clear about which parent holds the school designation boundary, and how this issue would be resolved in the event of disagreement.

Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer

Parenting and child custody are some of the hardest issues you will face in divorce. There is a long list that needs to be addressed in the terms of the parenting plan and how the terms are executed to ensure the interests of both parents are protected and the child’s well being sufficiently secured. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group help families in the Orlando area find solutions to hard legal issues, and are available to answer your questions. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.