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I Want my Kids to Go Back to School but my Ex-spouse Wants to Keep them Home. What Should we Do?

Sharing child custody with an ex-spouse can be difficult enough even when there are no major disagreements between you about medical or educational issues. It is rife with compromise even when there is no global pandemic going on. But the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent school closings have posed unprecedented challenges for parents, especially working parents, and with the new school year about to start, those challenges are coming to a head.

In New Jersey, divorced parents have both physical and legal custody arrangements. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with the majority of the time. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including matters of health care, education, and religious affiliation. If one parent has sole legal custody, it means that parent makes all the decisions pertaining to those matters. In the case of two fit parents, New Jersey family courts tend to favor arrangements where both parents share joint legal custody, meaning that both have equal input on these issues. It’s in the latter case where problems can arise when parents don’t see eye-to-eye.

Local public school districts in the state are in the process of deciding whether students will return to in-person classes this fall, attend class remotely via computer, or a hybrid of both. The issue has sparked controversy and debate across the state and country, with many families feeling strongly that their children should be in the classroom, and others feeling just as strongly that it’s unsafe to send their kids back to school while the disease is continuing to spread.

The Statewide Situation Is Still in Flux

The state government had reportedly planned to have all 600 of its school districts return to some form of in-person learning in the fall, with no all-remote options; however, schools that can’t meet all of the state’s safety guidelines for reopening in time for the start will be allowed to go all-remote.

Several districts in northern New Jersey including Passaic, Elizabeth, Jersey City and Bayonne have announced they will begin the year with an all-remote schedule. It is believed that most school districts will offer a combination of in-person and remote teaching, but parents who choose to will still be able to keep their children home full time.

Then there are the issues faced by parents who must work and can’t be home with their kids all day. Adequate technology to support at-home school attendance is another challenge for many.

Before a divorce is finalized, parents are required to work out a parenting plan that determines how much time the child will spend with each parent. In New Jersey, children may attend school in districts where they live at least 50 percent of the time. If parents split physical custody 50-50 and live in different school districts, then the child may attend school in either one.

A Respected Bergen County Family Lawyer Can Help

Normally the sole consideration when deciding on a school is the child’s educational needs. But when it comes to Covid-19, there are health implications for not only your child or children, but for you as well. If you and your former spouse clash over whether your child should attend school virtually or in-person, a reputable family law attorney may be able to help you come to a mutually acceptable agreement without the need to get a court involved.

If an agreement can’t be reached, one or the other parent can request a hearing before a family court judge. Many New Jersey court hearings are being conducted virtually now.

The child custody and parenting attorneys at Aretsky Law Group P.C. have abundant experience helping divorced and divorcing parents negotiate parenting plans and work out their differences. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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