two little boys in classroom; changing schools

Changing your child’s school requires you to have legal custody or the authority to do so from the court order or agreement. There are two types of custody that are often used interchangeably but mean very different things.

Legal Custody: 

Legal custody is the type of custody that gives you decision making power for your child. If you have sole legal custody of your child, you have the power to make decisions for your child without the permission or consent of the other parent. If you have joint legal custody of your child, both you and your spouse must agree on decisions affecting your child.

Physical Custody: 

Physical custody on the other hand determines where your child will live. You may have sole physical custody of your child which means your child primarily lives with you or you may have joint physical custody of your child which means your child shares living time with both parents.

Custody Decision Making Power

When parents share joint legal custody over their child minor day-to-day decisions are often made by the parent with whom the child lives. Larger decisions such as where your child attends schools, religious affiliation, and medical decisions must be discussed between the two parents and a joint decision must be made. If you can’t agree to discuss the decisions between yourselves, you may agree during the mediation of your case that one parent will have decision making power for medical care and the other parent will have decision making power for religious events.  If the parties cannot agree one parent can make the decision and the other parent can challenge the decision in court.

In order to modify a custody order, most states require the party requesting a modification to show a substantial and material change of circumstances that materially affect the best interests and welfare of the child. This rule applies to a court order for custody or an agreement related to custody that has been incorporated into a court order. A remarriage, change in employment or moving to another area may qualify as materially affecting the best interests of the child.

In short, if an agreement on custody is already in place and you want to change your child’s school you should first read your agreement or the order to see what type of custody arrangement you have. If you have joint legal custody of your child, both you and your child’s other parent will need to agree to change your child’s school. If you cannot agree you will need to go to court and get your custody agreement modified.

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Angela McIlveen
Angela McIlveen is the CEO and Co-Founder of the McIlveen Family Law Firm. As a Partner Attorney at the McIlveen Law Firm, Angela McIlveen handles cases in family law including child custody and support, divorce, alimony, adoption, separation, domestic violence, and equitable distribution. Angela McIlveen is often called upon to teach CLE classes to other attorney and to speak at events.
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