Question:How does Legal Custody work?
My sister is divorced, and she and her ex-husband have joint legal custody of their 7 year-old son. He has attended a blue-ribbon private school for the past two years, and he is thriving. He absolutely loves his school, which he attends with his cousin, who is his very best friend.
His father wants to switch him over to public school, and has provided only a few (and in the mother's and my opinion, ridiculous) reasons to do so. The mother is the one who takes their son to school, picks him up, does all the volunteer hours, attends school functions, aids with homework, etc. The father has done NOTHING concerning the child's education so far, other than paying all the tuition the past 2 years (in lieu of the $300/month child support that is in the separation agreement, I might add!). The mother is willing to pay the ENTIRE tuition herself.
Can he force her to send her child to an inferior public school under these conditions?
Answer:Legal Custody Explained
Force the matter? Perhaps. The controlling issue here is not who pays what, but rather who has legal custody. Decisions regarding education, religion, medical matters, etc. are controlled by the custody agreement -- under the title "legal custody". If mom has "sole legal custody", then she can dictate precisely where, when and how the child will engage schooling. If the matter is joint, than dad has a say, too.
In the end, mom can probably just keep the kiddo in the school. If dad is unhappy, he will have to file to enforce his view. If he has joint custody, he only needs to argue the equities of the different schools. If mom has sole legal, then he has to first prove he should have a say, and only then, if the court agrees to modify "sole" to "joint", can he argue the equities of the schools.
As to the equities of the school -- the child's two year history with the school, relationships with peers, and academic success are all key. These are strong arguments.
If you have any questions regarding legal custody -- give us a ring! 703-402-2723.
Sean Hanover, Esq.
Offices in Fairfax and DC
888 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20006