Whether it is part of your initial dissolution, legal separation, or establishment of decision-making (custody) and parenting time action, or a part of a later action, you may find yourself dueling with your co-parent regarding the issue, school selection: how does the family court decide? Hopefully, these matters can be decided between the parents but, if not, there are several options to resolve the issue.
If you and your co-parent already have orders for decision-making and parenting time, you may actually be required to attend mediation before seeking court intervention when trying to determine a school for your mutual child. If you are not required to do so, it may still be a good idea to show the Court that you approached the issue in good faith and attempted to resolve it without having to litigate the matter. If done through the Court, the cost for parents’ mediation is only $100 per person and it may be well worth the effort. If the parties reach an agreement, it can be drawn up and signed right there at the meeting. If no agreement is reached, a Notice of Non-Agreement is filed with the Court by the mediator and no other action will be taken unless one of the parties requests further Court intervention.
If the parties have a Parenting Coordinator appointed, the parties can utilize that person’s services to help reach either a consensus or, if no consensus is reached, to obtain a recommendation based on input from both parents and other relevant factors.
If the foregoing options prove unsuccessful, it may be necessary to file a Petition to determine school choice. But how will the Court, who will more than likely never meet your child, decide what’s best? That decision is guided by a case called Jordan v. Rea, 221 Ariz. 581, 212 P.3d 919 (Ariz. App. 2009). The case calls for the Court to consider the following factors:
The best interests factors set forth in A.R.S. § 25-403;
The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to school placement;
The wishes of the child as to school placement;
The interaction and interrelationship of the child with persons at the school who may significantly affect the child’s best interests; and
The child’s adjustment to any present school placement.
Id. at 590, 928.
The Court can clearly hear the parents’ wishes but may enlist the help of a mental health professional with respect to providing input on the remaining factors, perhaps in the context of a Parenting Conference or Limited Family Assessment. Also, the child[ren] may be interviewed by a member of the Court’s Conciliation Services division and/or the mental health professional appointed by the Court as a Parenting Conference or Limited Family Assessment provider. These factors, and any input from any mental health professional appointed by the Court, would be considered at a final Trial or Evidentiary Hearing set to resolve the matter and the Court would then issue a ruling.
If you are facing an issue with respect to school choice for your child and it appears that the decision will have to involve at least some level of mediation or Court intervention, consider speaking with a qualified family law attorney for guidance on the process and how to make your concerns best heard.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding School Selection: How Does the Family Court Decide?, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.