Summer goes quickly and before you know it, it will be fall and the start of a new school year. If you are a Florida parent facing divorce, where will your school-aged children go to school? It depends on which of several scenarios you face.
Parenting plans and school choice
Every Florida divorce involving minor children requires a parenting plan. These are comprehensive written plans for how the parents will handle important issues after the marriage ends (or between unmarried parents) in the children’s best interest.
Regarding future school decisions, the parenting plan must designate whether one parent will have the responsibility to decide or whether they will jointly make those decisions.
For kids going to public school, the plan must contain the residential address (normally one of the parents’ residences) the school district should use to determine the children’s school assignment according to current school boundaries.
The parents must also include this address designation on the correct court-approved parenting plan form that they must file after the divorce petition.
This scenario assumes they were able to negotiate and agree on school issues included in the parenting plan, in which case they can submit it to the court as part of a divorce settlement agreement. Usually the court will approve it, but not if the judge feels it would not be in the children’s best interests. For example, the judge may disagree with the school selection provisions and designate something different.
If the divorcing litigants cannot agree on school selection and address designation, they can each submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. The judge will either adopt one of them or make an address designation themselves that they think is in the children’s best interests.
The school district may upend the school selection in the parenting plan
After the dust settles, divorced parents and their kids may be living their new lives, settled into their routine and schools, according to the parenting plan approved by the court – whether it reflects the parties’ agreed-upon school selection, or the judge ended up crafting the school choice provisions.
Still, the school district could throw a wrench into the arrangement either by redrawing school boundaries or determining that the designated address is not actually the place where the child lives the majority of the time. In this scenario, the parent or parents may need to renegotiate this issue or ask the court to modify the parenting plan based on a substantial change in circumstances.
It may be beneficial before the divorce proceedings or when seeking a modification to review the school district’s rules before negotiating to craft an agreement most likely to hold up or to advocate in court for the preferred approach. Or, they could add a provision to the parenting plan about what should happen if their first school/address choice is impacted by an unanticipated school district action.