It is usually fathers who ask me what their rights are after they leave the family home, and whether because they are not the main carer, does this mean they have no say on their children’s education. The simple answer is no. Whether you are a child’s mother or father, if you have parental responsibility you must be consulted on which school your child attends and one parent cannot decide this without the other’s approval.
I understand it is difficult, especially after separation, for parents to agree on anything. A child’s education is key though in determining how their life will plan out.
If you cannot agree on the school, then the Court can decide. If one parent applies for a school which you object to then you can apply to stop the application by applying for a Prohibited Steps Order. If you are applying to stop the child attending a specific school I advise clients to also apply simultaneously for a Specific Issue Order which will determine that issue, in that case which school the child will attend. If you fail to make this application, it leaves the question of which school the child will attend.
With school applications, OFSTED reports are just one piece of evidence that the Court will consider. It is not always the best school in the area that is the most appropriate for the child. In considering whether to make an order, the child’s welfare must be the court’s paramount consideration and in relation to contested applications, it must have regard to the welfare checklist, i.e.:
* the wishes and feelings of the child concerned
* the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
* the likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision
* the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision
* any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering
* the capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs, and
* the powers available to the court
The court must always bear the ‘no-delay principle’ in mind. This prevents any delay in deciding the case, as otherwise this would be prejudicial to the child’s welfare. Furthermore, the court must be satisfied that making an order is better for the child than making no order at all. Therefore you must have substantial reasons for wanting to bring this claim.
If you feel that your opinion is not being considered in relation to the school application, telephone me to discuss the next steps. Depending on the child’s age, they have a say and their wishes and feelings are always paramount.
I advise looking at schools in the catchment area with your child and noting the pros and cons to each before making an application. The court will want to know that you have not made this decision lightly and that you can give valid reasons for wanting your child to attend a particular school.
These applications can take several months to process through Court, so please call me on 02476 531532 in good time, especially if you have concerns about the school your child may be attending next year.
Melanie Davis (née Timms)