What if you disagree with your ex-partner over the best school for your child?

With September comes the traditional going back to school routine but what happens if you and an ex-partner cannot agree on the best school for your child. While deciding on schools is difficult for all parents, it can be an additional source of tension between separated and divorced parents.

Potential factors that can cause problems in choosing a school include religious and cultural beliefs and, in some cases, financial issues. If one parent wants the child to attend a fee-paying school while the other one believes it is unaffordable, this difference in views can lead to a breakdown in communication.

What is most important in any disagreement is the parents’ responsibility to act in the child’s best interests and not to use education as a means of attacking each other. Any parent with parental responsibility has a duty to consider the views of the other parent in deciding where their child should go to school. Mothers have automatic parental responsibility, as do fathers who were either married to the child’s mother when the child was born or registered on the child’s birth certificate if the child was born after 1st December 2003.

If parents cannot reach a decision both are happy with, family mediation led by an impartial and experienced mediator can help to resolve each person’s concerns and for an agreement to be reached. When this doesn’t work a couple can use arbitration to settle the issue. In this instance, an arbitrator (often a retired judge) is appointed by both parents through their solicitors. After hearing both sides of the argument, the arbitrator decides the outcome of the dispute and their decision is legally binding.

As a final resort, parents can involve the courts. Before going to court, parents need to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MAIM), after which one parent can make an application to court for a Specific Issue Order, which allows the court to determine where the child should go to school. If required, the court can also make a Prohibited Steps Order, which is an injunction under the Children Act 1989, to prevent one parent from unilaterally moving their child to another school without the other parent’s consent.


If you need advice resolving issues around your child’s education, we have two trained family mediators and offer an initial no obligation consultation of up to one hour for a fixed rate of £100 (incl. VAT). This will provide you with legal advice specific to your individual circumstances. To book an appointment please call us on 01444 472700, email us at info@tisshawssolicitors.co.uk or complete the form below.

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