Best Interest of Children

Best Interest of Children

Dear Jeff & Andrew:

We have been married for 14 years and my wife seems to be getting stranger every day. Now she pulled both of our children out of the local elementary school in our neighborhood because she believes the teachers and administrators to all be too liberal for her tastes. She said that she is going to home school the children and that she doesn’t care about my opinion.

I happen to agree that most of the schools are too liberal but I think she is crazy to take on the task of educating them herself.

I was told by one of the administrators that they will not get involved in a dispute between a mother and father. It was suggested to me that I should file for divorce if we cannot reach an agreement. If I hire an attorney and file for a divorce or a dissolution, will the court order my wife to put the children back in public school? What do you suggest?

We sure think it makes more sense to get the children back in their existing school while the two of you explore all of your options. While homeschooling certainly has some advantages, the decision to make such a change should not be made unilaterally nor should it be based on only one reason.

If this dispute actually leads to a divorce, the judge will ultimately decide what is in the best interest of the children. That may, or may not, end with the children in a public school.

In the meantime, you have just as much right to re-enroll your children in school as your wife did to pull them out. However, before you start that kind of tug of war, you need to see an attorney to review your options. If the children have been continuously enrolled in public schools, you may be able to obtain an order requiring the children to be re-enrolled in school pending the final outcome of the case. Courts are vested with broad authority when it comes to issuing temporary orders. Broadly stated, temporary orders are usually made in order to maintain the status quo while a case is being prepared for a final trial. A unilateral decision to home school the children is certainly a departure from the status quo. You need to take action quickly to stand a chance of obtaining this kind of protection.

If you do not want this dispute to cause the termination of your marriage, you should suggest to your wife that the two of you meet with a mutual third party (such as a child psychologist or a school administrator or a teacher whose opinion you both respect) to attempt to resolve the dispute. Alternatively, you might suggest that you are willing to consider the homeschooling option but only after you have much more information so as to be able to make an informed decision. Suggest to your wife that putting the children back in school for the time being is the best way to buy yourselves time to fully investigate and evaluate your options while causing as little disruption/harm to your children as possible.

Dear Jeff & Andrew:

For the past 15 years, I have basically been a stay-at-home mother. Although I worked during the first two or three years that we were married, once children became a part of our family, both my husband and I agreed that it was important to have a parent be home to the extent possible. My husband has a very demanding job and is typically up and out each day before the children get out of bed. Most days he gets home just in time for dinner and then sits on a couch watching television or sleeping until he decides to go to bed. He is more active as a parent on the weekends but that is only if he does not have a game of golf or if there is no good game on television.

Now that we are heading into a divorce, he believes that he should have the children at least 50% of the time. When I ask him how he can possibly care for them given his schedule and the fact that nothing has changed for several years, he said that he will have his mother move in with him to cover the time he is unavailable. The fact remains that his mother has almost no contact with our children and has never indicated a desire or willingness to get to know them.

I personally think my husband is trying to use the children so that he can pay me less money in a divorce. Will a judge actually permit the kind of arrangement he is suggesting?

The judge may permit the kind of arrangement your husband is suggesting if the Court feels that such a schedule is in the best interest of the children. Courts today seem to have a significant leaning toward a relatively equal division of parental rights and responsibilities. However, that does not mean that your husband can expect to “win” his argument.

The court will look at the parenting roles each of you have filled historically and determine how best to continue to meet all of the children’s needs. Before a judge will make such an order, an equal division of time is going to need to make practical sense and be relatively easy to execute.
If your husband works 60 hours a week and you do not, the court will try to determine how to allocate time in a manner that allows the children to spend as much time with each parent as possible. Some work schedules simply will not accommodate an equal division of time. And as for providing one parent with 50% of the parenting time, only to have that parent turn around and have someone else care for the children while they work, seems unreasonable to you, how do you think it will sound to the court? Judges are bound to follow the law, but there is nothing in the law that requires common sense to be thrown out of the window.

Dear Jeff & Andrew:

My ex-wife has legal custody of our three children. I spend every other weekend with them and often see them for an evening during the week. They spend a lot of additional time with me over holidays and during extended school vacations. I bought each of the children their own cell phones so that we could talk daily in addition to sending text messages back and forth.

My ex has been dating a guy whose company is going to transfer him to Salt Lake City, Utah. She indicated that she wants to move with him and take the children with her. When I told her that I objected, she said that she had talked to a lawyer who said that I would never be able to keep her here. She has suggested that I not waste the money and that I use it to bring the children back during the summer.

Is there anything I can do or is it really going to be a waste of money?

Your ex is correct about one thing: you can never convince the court to order her to stay here. You most certainly can, however, convince the court to require that the children stay here. Relocation cases are among the toughest cases facing the domestic relations bench and bar. Quite simply, there is no middle ground. If your ex is absolutely moving across the country, the court will either allow the children to go with her or the children must stay here with you.

Since these cases are difficult, they are often time-consuming. If the relocation is imminent, and if you absolutely object to the children moving, you need to hire a lawyer and file a motion to modify the custodial arrangements immediately. Your lawyer will explain to you that the court is going to need to hear about every aspect of the children’s lives and the various roles you and your ex have played in their lives since the divorce.

Even though we live in a very mobile society, parents do not have the absolute right to bounce their children around without first looking at the harm that might be caused. Like most lawyers, we find these cases to be exceptionally difficult.

Questions? Contact a Columbus family law attorney today.