On the other hand, if you are fighting to keep a school, demonstrating positive relationships will favor your case. Likewise, if the child is getting stellar grades and has solid friendships at a school that can be proved, this will also be an influence in the case. The curriculum used and method of teaching at each school Again, use the facts to back up your position. Whether the proposed or current school situation complies with state law Compare the schools in question. If there is data available from an accrediting source, this should help make your case. This may not apply in all instances, naturally, but if it is, it can be a deciding factor.
While the above factors still afford the Court great discretion in selecting a school, they provide an excellent framework for presenting your case. Also, keep in mind that not all of the above factors may be relevant to your case. For example, not school choice case involves a current school. Divorce is Scary. We Make it Better. Mom says this. Dad says that. Divided parents notoriously have difficulty with the ideal of shared decisionmaking due to the animosity, poor communication, and spitefulness that often accompanies the breakdown of relationships.
Emotions run high and positions harden. Unfortunately for the homeschooling parent, when discontent leads to deadlock, home education is often the casualty. Hancock v. Hancock , So. Fighting for Sole Parental Responsibility? When divided parents share decisionmaking, deadlock over homeschooling can occur all too easily.
Homeschooling and the Perils of Shared Parental Responsibility
If the other parent wants a say in the education decision later, courts will be reluctant to change the status quo. For example, in Rust v. Rust , S. The problem with seeking sole parental responsibility, of course, is that it is likely unattainable. In reality, the most likely way to secure sole parental responsibility for the client will be through mediation; however, many parents will not agree to give up rights over their children, even if under the current statutory scheme, parental rights are defined less by nomenclature and more by how the parenting plan and timesharing arrangements are fashioned.
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Outside of a negotiated agreement that a court will accept, a homeschooling parent will find it impracticable, except in extreme cases, to obtain sole parental responsibility. Although sole parental responsibility might make the homeschool decision easier, there are good reasons why states have trended away from it: respect for the dignity of both parents and the encouragement of engaged co-parenting by mothers and fathers.
Moreover, shared parental responsibility is based on the natural and proven belief that children benefit from the active involvement of both parents in their lives, even after a dissolution or separation. Thus, attorneys ordinarily should seek other options for the client. Other Options to Protect Homeschooling For the lawyer advising a client interested in home education, perhaps the best option is to negotiate a parenting plan that expressly gives the homeschooling parent ultimate decision-making authority regarding education.
This middle ground preserves most of the shared parental responsibility while fully protecting the decision to educate at home. A court that accepts this arrangement will later be reluctant to change the status quobecause the non-homeschooling parent has voluntarily yielded this authority. The parenting plan will be even stronger if it expressly mentions home education as an option for the minor children.
Of course, the client may need to compromise on other issues to secure this type of favorable result. Of course, there are risks to raising this issue in litigation.
Child Support and Private School Tuition
The strategy could backfire and the court could place all educational control in the hands of the non-homeschooling parent. Thus, a less risky and more palatable goal — especially when the family has been homeschooling prior to dissolution — could be to agree to shared parental responsibility but to insert an explicit reference about home education in the parenting plan.
No plan should imply an acquiescence or understanding between the parents that the children will attend a public or private brick-and-mortar school. Should the decree leave that impression, it will be difficult later to overcome the perception that the parents agreed not to homeschool.
Once again, a future court will be hesitant to change the status quo without a substantial change in circumstances.
A Matter of Timing Life is often about timing. That concept fully applies to home education, especially in relation to the dissolution of a parental relationship. When it comes to the matter of a court assigning parental responsibility for education, the best-case scenario for the homeschooling client will be for the family to have an ongoing practice of home education prior to dissolution — the longer the practice, the better. Indeed, some courts accord significant weight when one parent has stayed home to raise children during the relationship.
This fact can impact not only shared parental responsibility, but also issues such as imputed income 16 and the level of alimony to award a homeschooling parent who sacrificed to educate the children during the relationship. Yet not every court will find this past practice determinative. In Welch v. Welch , So. Compare that to the worst-case scenario in which the client decides to homeschool only after the relationship has dissolved and without any history of agreement between the parents, triggering a petition from the other parent claiming a substantial change in circumstances from the parenting plan.
In Wade v. Hirschman , So.
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For instance, in Smith v. Smith , So. Wyatt , So. They will need to confer with each other and find compromise when possible. In the matter of home education, this is often easier said than done.
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Thus, in preparing for potential deadlock later, the homeschooling parent should be advised to take precautions now. In particular, the client should pay attention to three areas that can help maximize the chances of continuing home education: providing a quality education, encouraging socialization, and avoiding parental strife.
This is similar to the situation in which a court allocates medical decisionmaking to the parent who makes effective treatment choices for their sick child. With education, a judge is less likely to give a parent permission to homeschool if the program is pedagogically weak. There is always danger when a court examines the effectiveness of a homeschooling program. To neglect this area is surely the kiss of death to any chance of continued homeschooling.
For instance, in Wigley v.
Hares , 82 So. But following the rules is not enough. The client interested in continued homeschooling must also ensure that the children are getting a top-notch education at home. This is an area that the judge may need expert evidence to demonstrate the benefits of home education over traditional brick-and-mortar schools and proof the children are thriving in the homeschooling environment. Moreover, the success of homeschooling is not dependent on whether the parents have college degrees. It is the hands-on, individualized attention of homeschooling that brings success; the level of parental education does not significantly increase the results.
An expert witness testifying in support of home education should make the judge aware of all the data in case the judge is naturally inclined to the traditional educational model. Consider the potential impact of such expert evidence in the Connecticut case of Carrano v. Dennison , 30 Conn. In sum, the best defense for a client who desires to continue homeschooling is solid evidence that the program is both legal and effective in preparing the children for the future.enter site
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Addressing Socialization Concerns Perhaps the most misunderstood societal belief about homeschooling is that children at home cannot be properly socialized. In Cano v Cano , So. Homeschooling experts point out that many empirical studies demonstrate that, by and large, children educated at home are often better socialized than their brick-and-mortar peers, and that they adapt well to society, both in their adolescent years and as adults. Homeschoolers who give their children a healthy amount of social contact will be better positioned to win their cases in family court.
Eisele , 91 So. Unfortunately, the bias about socialization becomes even more pronounced when dealing with religious homeschoolers, of which there are many in Florida. In one joint custody case from New Hampshire, a Christian mother butted heads over homeschooling with her less-religious ex-husband. Parents who wish to continue homeschooling after separation must take potential bias about socialization into account when making their education plans.
They will need to get their children involved in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, and youth groups, where they will have peer contact. If religion becomes an issue in the case, they must vigorously defend their rights under the First Amendment to demonstrate that religion is not harmful in their specific case. Expert testimony will be essential.