My ex and I have very different ideas about how we want our children educated. Even when we were together we couldn’t agree and it was one of the reasons why our marriage ended. With our eldest child starting school next year we need to make some important decisions. I really want both our children to attend the small Catholic school around the corner, but my ex was always adamant that the local State school was ‘good enough’ for him and that his children ‘would never grow up to be entitled brats’. Since he only has them alternate weekends anyway, can I just enrol them at the school of my choice and send him the bill later?
The Answer is NO.
The Family Law Act presumes that both parents should have shared parental responsibility when making long term decisions about the care, welfare and development of their children. Education falls within this category. There is a positive obligation on both parents to make this important decision.
Indeed, some parents don’t see the need in sending their child or children to private schools. Some parent’s look at the fees they charge, and simply will not entertain sending their children there. It is not uncommon to hear one parent claim that since they are already paying child support, they should not be expected to ‘cough up more cash’ to fund the cost of expensive school fees. Obviously, this becomes a major source of discontent if the parent receiving child support wants to send the child to a private school, and doesn’t understand the other parent’s rationale. It’s about the child isn’t it.
In the first instance, your primary aim should be to work with your ex to share your ideas about the type of education you want for your child. Ideally, through this discussion you may come to an agreement, or a compromise. It may be that both parents agree to contribute to the costs of education. In some situations, you may achieve consent to enrol your child in the school of your choosing, albeit with the proviso that this expense is borne by you entirely.
Where these discussions fail, or are not possible, such negotiations may take place through mediation or with the assistance of a Family Solicitor. In this manner, as with other Family Law disputes, your lawyer will negotiate with your exes’ lawyer until a suitable compromise can be reached. Should this negotiation fail the matter can be brought to the Federal Circuit Court with the Judge ultimately deciding what is in the best interests of the child.
While there are no simple answers to your dilemma, it is critical that separated parents with children work to find solutions that are ultimately in the best interests of the child. Too often, I observe situations where parents lose sight of their parenting responsibilities and this situation is used as an opportunity to ‘get one over’ their ex. Children should never be used as pawns in this game. Sometimes, the best solution is to be open to compromising some of your dreams so as to move forward and ensure your child greater stability in the long term.