June 30, 2021

How Does Joint Legal Custody Impact School Choice?

The parents of any child are rightfully concerned with the decisions of any issue that impact their child, especially larger decision with long-term effects. That concern does not diminish following a divorce, whether a parent retains physical custody of the child or not.

Join legal custody

In most divorces, Michigan courts will award joint legal custody to a child’s parents. Although one parent may retain physical custody, with the child spending most of their time with that parent, both parents retain decision making authority when legal custody is joint.

Both parents have the right to make decisions together regarding the long-term health and welfare of their child. This right includes where the child attends school. But what happens when the parents disagree as to which school the child should attend?

School Choice

Ideally, all divorced parents would agree where their child should go to school. But sometimes factors like location, ease of access, curriculum or security can make different schools more appealing to different parents. If the parents cannot resolve their differences, the courts must step in and decide the issue.

In much the same way as an original custodial decision is made, a court will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine what is in the best interest of the child. In a custodial hearing, the court must consider 12 different factors and make factual findings for each one individually prior to making a custodial ruling.

However, unlike custodial hearings, the court does not need to apply all 12 factors to make a ruling as to school choice. Instead, the court can determine that certain factors do not apply to the issue of school choice and make factual findings based only on those which do apply. Once the findings are complete, the court will issue its ruling based on the narrower set of factors.