Unintended Consequences of Protracted Custody Cases | Smith Debnam Narron Drake Saintsing & Myers, LLP

Unfortunately, most teachers have experienced the unintended consequences of protracted custody cases and the enormous pitfalls that arise when schools are forced to make important decisions about children’s best interests without the guidance of a custody order.

Who can participate in the child’s extracurricular activities?

Who can pick up the child from school?

Who can access the child’s school records?

Who should the school consult when making educational decisions in favor of a minor child?

If a court-ordered custody agreement or separation or guardianship agreement is in place, it is important that the divorcing parents provide their child’s school with the most recent copy. It is equally important that the parents consider all possible situations and circumstances that might arise and include these provisions in the custody agreement. Because school officials can only comply with the terms of the order or agreement for a particular situation, school administrators have very little guidance to follow unless the situation is outlined. It is therefore mandatory to provide details. For example, parents of a child with special needs could indicate how decisions are made about their child’s day-to-day care. Other parents may designate which parent has the authority to sign to authorize their child’s before or after school trips or transportation, or which parent the school should notify if there is a disciplinary incident. If parents who are divorcing live or will live in different school districts, the custody orders should outline the school district of choice and how those decisions will be made in the future.

It is important for divorcing parents to note that their child’s school has no choice but to honor the custody order on file with the school, even if the existing custody order is outdated. While custody orders are generally helpful, a serious delay between a previous custody decision and a newly revised custody order can put a child at risk of being left behind.

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