Almost every parent wants the best education for their child. In most Michigan divorce and custody cases, parties are awarded joint legal custody, As joint legal custodians, parents must jointly make decisions regarding the educational upbringing of their child. In simple terms, both parents have an equal say regarding choice of school in Michigan.
Choice of school in Michigan can be a strong point of contention. So, what can a parent do if they cannot agree on a choice of school in Michigan? Like most decisions that need to be made for children in divorce cases, if the parties cannot agree, then the parties have to go to Court and allow the Court to decide.
The landmark choice of school case in Michigan was decided by the Michigan Supreme Court on May 11, 2010. The case is entitled Pierron v. Pierron. The Pierron. This case determined how a school choice decision must be made by the Courts. The trial court must conduct a hearing and decide the issue applying the best interest factors. The court hearing is called a Lombardo hearing.
In most cases, the trial court does not have to examine every best interest factor at a Lombardo hearing when deciding a choice of school case in Michigan unless the choice of school would also change custody. Often times, not all of the best interest factors even apply to the facts and circumstances of every case. However, in a change of custody case, every best interest factor must be examined.
So what factors does the court consider in a choice of school case in Michigan? While every best interest factor should be considered in a choice of school case, the most relevant factors include:
- Best interest of the child factor (b) which specifically addresses the education of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (d) addresses the stability of the child’s environment and the desirability of maintaining the family unit. This factor can play an important role if the choice of school issue involves moving to a new location and making new friends.
- Best interest of the child factor (e) may be important as well if the choice of school disrupts the family unit.
- Best interest of the child factor (h) examines the home, school and community record of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (i) examines the reasonable preference of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (j) examines the home, school and community record of the child; and
- Best interest of the child factor (l) examines any other factor considered by the court to be relevant
When preparing for a choice of school case in Michigan, preparation is key.
In preparing for a choice of school case, we typically research standardized test scores, teacher parent ratios, special education resources and access to extra-curricular activities in addition to the social aspects of the school choice. The ability to get a child to school timely can often play a role in a choice of school case other factors. Often times, experts/administrators from the school district where you wish the child to attend are called on to testify as to the quality of the schools and programs of the district.
Children’s enrollment in School – The Court’s Ruling
The attorneys at Kizy Law have successfully argued their client’s cases before Courts to persuade the presiding Friend of the Court Referees and Family Court Judges to enter an order for the minor children to attend various public and/or parochial schools as chosen by our clients.
Make Education Decisions Part of Your Divorce Agreement
During a divorce, it’s common for spouses to put off decisions that don’t need to be resolved immediately. Future education decisions often fall into a “we’ll deal with that later” category. But delaying this topic can lead to problems after your divorce is final, which can translate into additional, significant legal fees, as well as possibly heading back to court.
If you and your spouse are clearly on the same page as far as your children’s future education, the matter may not be too pressing. But if you’re not, then you should deal with this issue—during your divorce. In either case, make sure education decisions are specifically addressed in your final divorce judgment if possible.