Children – Who decides which school?
If you are unable to reach an agreement through mediation or conciliation on the school which your child will attend than you may be in the position of needing to make an application to the Family Court for an order specifying the school the child is to attend.
The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia recently looked at the factors that will be taken into account when deciding which school a child is to attend where the parents of the child were unable to reach an agreement.
In Dreyfus v Kearney  FamCAFC 7 the mother wanted the child to attend one secondary school and the father wanted the child to attend another secondary school. They could not reach an agreement so they sought a determination from the Court.
The parties were in a relationship from 1997 to December 1998, they never co-habited and since birth the child lived with the mother. The child had attended a private Catholic primary school to which the father had refused to contribute to the school fees because he did not consider it necessary for the child to attend a private school for his primary schooling. The mother had been responsible for the payment of the child’s primary school fees.
In these proceedings the father maintained that he would not pay school fees for the child to any school but the one he wanted the child to attend.
In deciding that the child should attend the secondary school chosen by the mother the Court considered the following significant matters:
- Payment of the school fees in light of the father’s poor record in relation to child support (where he was in arrears of approximately $86,000) and the child’s education expenses to date. This poor record weighed heavily against the father’s commitment to pay the school fees for the child to attend the secondary school chosen by the father.
- A default on the school fees by the father would lead to further deterioration of the parties relationship. In essence, if the child attends the school chosen by the father the Court would be creating a situation where there would be future parental disputation that would not be in the child’s interest.
- The child was willing to accept whatever decision his parents made in relation to the secondary school he was to attend.
- The child’s relationship with both parents would not be adversely affected no matter which school he attended.
- The pros and cons involved in the travel that would be required between the parents homes and both schools.
- The parents will assist the child to make and foster friendships at either school.
- As a talented sportsman the child would excel at either school.
- The school chosen by the mother was a Catholic school and the mother and child were practising Catholics. The school chosen by the mother would continue the values and religion that was significant in his primary education.
If you are unable to reach a decision on issues in relation to your child’s education than you need to seek expert legal advice on your options under the Family Law Act.