What if we cannot agree on our child returning to school or nursery?

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to separated parents. Co-parenting itself is quite a task in the first place. With the pandemic, there have been additional strains. Having to work from home, care for the child and help them with home schooling has taken a toll on many parents.

The government is now considering the re-opening of schools and nurseries. The Education Secretary has already mentioned that from the beginning of the new academic year, financial penalties will be levied if the child is not at school and there isn’t a good reason for absence. The rules, however, may change depending on the spread of the virus.

Parents are naturally concerned about the health risks to the children. They may also worry that if the child does not attend school, it may affect the child’s education as well as his/her emotional needs.

Some parents may end up disagreeing with each other about whether the child should attend a school or not. This can be an especially stressful situation for those who are co-parenting.

If you are in such a situation, consider what you can do

  • Openly communicate with each other to arrive at a practical solution keeping the overall welfare of the child as priority. If you are not in talking terms, you could communicate with the help of a mutual contact or a lawyer.
  • Speak with the school authorities and share your concerns. You may have some of your anxiety alleviated when you get to know the measures they have in place for the safety of children.

In a few cases, communication between the two parents may have completely broken down or it just feels impossible to make a decision that both can agree on.

In such cases, additional help becomes necessary to resolve the dispute. What are your options? Basically, there are two.

  1. Apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order

Because of the restrictions due to the pandemic, courts are not able to handle as many as cases as they used to. So, they have put in place a few gatekeeping measures so that urgent matters can be prioritised. If you apply for a Specific Issue Order as soon as possible, your issue will be heard by the court as a priority case.

The judge will hear the arguments put forth by both the parents and then come to a decision. It’s quite likely that, considering the present situation, the judge will hear the case via video conferencing.

If the government says that school attendance is mandatory, the judge cannot be persuaded easily to let the child be absent from school. If you don’t want your child to attend school, you will have to give a very valid reason.

  1. Use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Methods

ADR methods will be quicker and more convenient when compared to resolving the matter at court. The parents can use a mediator, arbitrator or a private judge. Generally, a retired judge or an experienced barrister or solicitor is appointed as arbitrator.

The private judge carefully considers the concerns of both the parents, the viability of the suggested alternative arrangements and the best interests of the child.

Throughout the entire procedure, parents must keep in mind that it’s a tense situation, not only for them, but also for the child. They must arrive at a decision only after carefully considering the child’s overall welfare and reviewing all alternatives available.

If you need more insight and advice in this regards, please do not hesitate to contact a member at Aristone Solicitors.

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Child and Family Law

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