Recently, I have been contacted by several former divorce clients who have asked me the same question. These clients have school age children. In all instances they have “SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY”. The question that has been asked is, “Can you help me?” The help they need concerns the reopening of schools. One of the parents wants the child(ren) to go back to school for face-to-face learning and the other parent wants the child(ren) to continue with distance learning.
I am sure this is an issue that many parents are dealing with right now. No matter where you may stand on this issue, I think every parent has weighed the pros and cons of sending a child back into their school. If the parents are still together in an intact marriage or even if not married but living together and raising their children, I think we can all admit that it is a joint parental decision. However, if the parents are divorced, and have Shared Parental Responsibility will the courts become involved? Florida Statutes define it as follows:
A court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents CONFER with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined JOINTLY.
So, based upon the above, the parents are to confer, and make a joint decision. Sounds exactly what parents, who are still together, must do when making major decisions about their children. That is exactly the goal of Shared Parental Responsibility. You may be divorced but you are still the parents of your children and need to put aside your differences and co-parent. Unless one of the parents have been given “ultimate decision making “ for educational decisions, (rare) neither parent has the ability to “override” the other.
What I have advised these former clients, who are now raising their children as divorced parents, is that they must work it out between themselves. They must decide what is in their children’s best interests. It is not up to a Judge to decide this issue. It is not a clear-cut issue, with a right or a wrong. In my opinion it would not be proper for a judge to make such a decision based upon his or her individual belief about the benefits or the danger in having a child attend school. There just is no real “clear cut” answer.