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Can father stop mother from enrolling child in extreme church-based elementary school?


Your Question:
1st of all you give such good sound advice, I really enjoy this site, so thanks.

I am married to a man with 2 kids from a previous marriage, ages 4 and 5. They have joint legal with mom being residential. We are in the process of hammering out a new parenting plan to address the kids maturing and school vacations and summer issues. Mom is uncooperative to say the least so we are expecting to have to go to court to get it done.

Another issue has reared it's ugly head recently that has DH and I a little worried and a lot irritated. Mom and her new husband, who the boys have been encouraged to call Daddy, have joined a very strict, evangelical, conservative church in the last year. The church has both a pre-school and a private school affiliated with it. When they were deciding on pre-school for the kids last May Mom said she wanted the boys to attend her churches pre- school. Dad agreed but told her at that time that it was for pre-school only and he was not interested in the kids going to private, parochial school.

Now it is time to pre-enroll for next year and the 5 year old will be starting Kindy in the fall. Mom calls last week wanting to get the $$ for pre-enrollment. DH agrees to pay his part of youngest pre-school costs but not the oldest and again says he is not interested in the kids going to parochial school.

At 1st it was a $$$ issue but the more we have been looking into this school the more worried we are. They are unacredited with the State and appear to advocate and use corporal punishment, we do not spank, Mom (and possibly step dad) do.

My question is how likely is a judge to either make us pay 1/2 or rule in favor of an unacredited religious based school? Also should DH stop paying for 1/2 of the pre- school costs? We pay per a verbal agreement between the two of them, meaning 1/2 of extra curriculars is NOT spelled out in CS or parenting agreement.

Thanks.

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My Answer:
Hi,

Thanks for writing.

First, as you may or may not know, the father stands no chance at getting orders to prohibit the mother from exposing the kids to the religion of her choice... provided that the religion is not harming the welfare of the children.

If hitting children is part of the religion, then the father stands a chance at convincing a court to restrain the mother from exposing the children to people who hit them.

The same would probably hold true for school choice. If you can muster up some evidence that the school employs corporal punishment, that seems to me to be your strongest argument that it's not in the child's best interest to attend it.

Now, your tough thing is that the father agreed to this preschool. So the father is going to have to explain why he suddenly feels like this church-based school isn't a good place for the kids. Perhaps the kids aren't thriving, perhaps he didn't realize they employ corporal punishment. How does he do it without sounding wishy-washy? For you to figure out.

In another email (not posted), you mentioned that court orders state that parents shall consider each other's perspective with regard to education decisions. So there are no orders specifically as to who gets to pick the school.

It would seem you're going to have to get the orders clarified on how the school is selected. So, if I were in your shoes, I'd file a motion that seeks the following:
  • The children shall not attend a school that employs corporal punishment.

  • If not a public school, the children shall attend only a private school that is accredited by XYZ agency (i.e., find out the most common accreditation agency of private schools in your area).

  • If parents cannot agree on schooling, father shall have the final decision-making.

  • If one parent provides written objection to the other parent regarding private school attendance, the other parent shall be responsible for the entire cost of the private school.

These several things should be granted or denied by the court in an individual manner (i.e., the court may deny all, grant all, or deny/grant some).

If the court doesn't give dad the right to ultimately pick the school, then the other clauses can help address your concerns.

Of course, if the court DOES give dad the right to ultimately decide on the school (and the other items are granted too), dad must comply with the above terms.

But rather than make this a "religious" thing, focus on the corporal punishment and apparent lack of accreditation as an elementary school. That combination should be enough to at least force a decision by the court.

As to continuing to pay for half of preschool, I suggest Dad continue-- at least until you have kindergarten choice cleared up. I think it could only hurt him to go back on an agreement about paying for preschool (regardless of whether or not it was ordered). Once you get a sense of how the judge feels about the parochial school, thereafter, dad can say, "I'd like to switch preschools to one that is NAEYC accredited due to my concerns about the current place." He can leverage his half of payment to try to influence it.

Good luck.

Eric





This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.


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