The start of the year is often a very busy and stressful time for separated families as children are returning to the primary caretaker, usually after spending significant time with the other parent over the holidays, and young children are often due to be enrolled in school for the first time.
At Affinity Lawyers, we often see an increase in enquiries at the commencement of a schooling year on the Gold Coast regarding disagreements between separated parents, firstly about enrolling a child in school for the first time, and secondly, about the enrolment of a child in a particular school.
Generally, both parents share equal parenting responsibility in relation to major long term issues pertaining to the child and this includes decisions such as the child’s education (both current and future), the child’s health, name and religious and cultural upbringing. This presumption of shared equal parenting can also include any changes to the child’s living arrangements which could make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent.
Unless a formal order is in place allocating sole parental responsibility to one parent, then both parents should be jointly deciding on an appropriate school for the child and facilitating the enrolment of a child in that school.
Although a school may accept an enrolment form signed by one parent only, is important to remember that if one parent has unilaterally enrolled the child without the input of the other parent, then this issue can be brought before the Court, and can reflect badly on the parent who chose to enrol the child, indicating (amongst other things) that particular parents unwillingness to facilitate the relationship between the child and the other parent.
There may be other issues associated with a unilateral enrolment in school by one parent in that the contract formed is between the school and that parent and the school may not be able to seek payment of any fees from the other parent, regardless of whether the parents have agreed to share the cost or have come to some other arrangement in respect of fees.
Issues can also arise in respect of which parent receives the notifications, updates and reports pertaining to the child and, more often than not, the parent with whom the child resides with the majority of the time is the one who receives this information. If communication between the parents breaks down, then one parent may end up missing out on important information.
It is important to remember that it is not the role of the School to mediate between parents of a child, and often if there are ongoing disputes between parents then issues should be resolved by way of a formal court order, which can be provided to the School for clarity.
We strongly recommend that all parents consider upcoming schooling arrangements for their children, and discuss the options in a calm and reasonable manner well in advance of the school term commencing.
If you are unsure of your rights, obligations or simply wish to seek some legal advice regarding children’s issues, then one of our friendly Gold Coast Lawyers will be happy to assist. Please telephone 07 5563 8970 to schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation today.