It’s that time of year where the school year is starting to wind down and your child’s summer vacation is looming. This gets parents thinking about the next school year. When parents share different opinions on a child’s school, one parent may think a change in the child’s school is best.
Courts look at the best interests of the minor child when determining whether a school change is appropriate. As many of our firm’s blog posts cite, there are specific best interest factors that a Court must look to, but a Court can look beyond those factors. This raises many questions, including:
- How is the child doing in school?
- What is the reason for the change in school?
- Why is the proposed school better than the current school?
- How will the child benefit from the new school?
However, one question that often is at the back of parents minds, is how long will it take for a Court to decide a change in school. The answer is simple: months.
Most divorce decrees or custody decrees have a mediation clause that requires parents to attend mediation before the Court will ever here your motion to change a child’s school. It is a clause that is often required to be included in a decree or order before a judge will sign off on it. Mediation, depending on the mediator, can take a month to two months to schedule. This includes the time it takes for the parties to exchange any necessary information.
If mediation fails, then the matter will go to Court when the Court has availability to hear your motion to change the child’s school. Once the Court has heard your motion, the Court has ninety days to make a decision. Yes, you read that right. The Court has three months to make a decision, but the Court can make a decision sooner than three months. Most Courts take the full ninety days to render a decision.
Also, you may want to think about hiring a limited-scope custody evaluator to provide a recommendation on schools. Parents can agree to hire a neutral to render a recommendation. The recommendation often helps provide a basis for settlement so the parties never have to see the inside of a courtroom. Realize, though, that a school evaluation can also take months to complete. Even if the recommendation does not facilitate a settlement between feuding parents, the recommendation can be helpful to bolster your position in Court (depending on what the recommendation says).
It takes time to resolve any issue in Court. School choices and changes, though, come with built in deadlines. There are school registration dates and school start dates to consider. It can be harder to convince a judge to change your child’s school when the child is already months into the school year.
All in all, it is best to start thinking about a school change early to ensure you have sufficient time to go through the necessary stops.