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Noncustodial father wants primary custody because mother's homeschooling of child isn't going well

Your Question:
I am the stepmother of a 7 year old boy. My husband & his ex have joint custoday & are fighting the issue of son's education. The mother currently homeschools him. My husband wants his son placed in public/private school due to his ex's questionable teaching methods and promotion of anti-social behaviors. She doesn't allow son to be in any homeschool groups & doesn't think it's important for him to be around other kids on a daily basis even though son has told us he's lonely. Mother has taught son to read well (81st-86th percentile), but he's very lacking in math (36th %)& writing (36th %) due to her lack of skills. She has no college degree/qualifications; she herself was homeschooled & performed poorly in math. They went to mediation but were unsuccessful.

The current schedule is that the son comes to our house Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday evenings from 6-8:30. Then he comes over on Saturdays at 11 AM, spends the night, and goes back to his mother at 6 PM on Sunday evenings. This has been the standing schedule (by verbal agreement) for more than 3 years without any problem. Now that my husband is pursuing the education issue, the mother is trying to reduce the son's time with my husband.

What do you think are my husband's chances of winning in court?

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing. You provided additional information (not posted) that I considered in my response.

If everything you outline is true, I think the father has a decent shot at changing things around a bit. I strongly encourage the father to think hard about what schedule would be best for the child, and what schooling would be best.

Then the father goes to court to modify the parenting plan (i.e., keep it joint custody, but modify the schedule), on a "best interest of the child" argument, requesting the changes he's thought hard about.

Here are your arguments:

  • The child is not doing well overall, in terms of education. Provide credible evidence of this, akin to what you outlined (i.e., test measures).

  • The mother refuses to get the child a tutor. Provide credible evidence of this (e.g., correspondence from the mother).

  • The child has no opportunities to make friends or join other home-schooled students. Provide credible evidence of this. Also, you may ask the court to appoint an evaluator to examine the child's social desires and home-schooled situation.

  • The mother has no education background and follows no standardized home-schooling curriculum (if true). Provide credible testimony or evidence of this.

  • The father has identified ABC School, which is located within 5 miles of both homes. Its students perform (on average) at 82 percentile across subjects. Its faculty has low-turnover, with average 12 years of experience at the school. Its student-teacher ratio is 18-1, better than state average. According to the state department of education (if a public school), this school ranks in the top tenth percentile of all schools.

  • The father is concerned about the child's education, as home-schooling is not going well. The father would like the court to give him the final decision in the child's education. The father is willing to pay 100% of tuition, if he chooses a private school.

  • In order to better support the child's education and transition into a traditional school environment, the father feels it's now best for the child to be in his care on a more substantial basis. For example (propose an exact schedule that results in 50/50 to 60/40, with father having 60%).

If you lay out everything above, I think the mother will be on the defensive in court. The court will want to know why she's not seeking outside help on the apparently failed topics, and what her plan is for the future.

If she doesn't come up with really good answers, I think the court will give the father greater ability to help the child.

If the term "credible evidence" is ambiguous to you, then buy the book Child Custody A to Z: Winning with Evidence by Guy White. It does a great job explaining how to build a strong case. I describe it further on my Recommended Books page.

Finally, it behooves the father to file something first. He should be taking the "I'm concerned and asking the court for help" approach, rather than the "Well, she filed something, so I'm going to strike back with my own demands" position.

Good luck.


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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