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School Disagreements With Your Ex? De Novo Law Can Help

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School Disputes- How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

When it comes to co-parenting, disagreements are bound to arise, especially when it comes to making major decisions for your child. One common conflict that can arise is deciding which school to enroll your child in. In a situation where you and your ex partner have different opinions on what school would be the best fit for your child, it can create a difficult and emotionally charged situation.

In cases where parents share joint legal custody, both parties have an equal say in making major decisions for their child, including where they will receive their education. This can lead to a stalemate and the need for outside intervention, such as legal advice or even a court order.

If you find yourself in this situation, it may be beneficial to seek the assistance of a legal professional such as De Novo Law Legal Paraprofessionals who can help guide you through the process of working out a solution that is in the best interest of your child. 

We will cover the following topics:

Understanding Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time

In Arizona, “legal decision-making” and “parenting time” are key concepts in how parents decide about their child’s education following a divorce or separation. Legal decision-making can be sole or joint, determining whether one or both parents have the authority to make major decisions, including school choice.

Parenting time, on the other hand, outlines the schedule for the child’s time with each parent, influencing daily involvement in the child’s educational activities.

Disagreements over school enrollment necessitate an understanding of these terms. Joint legal decision-making requires parents to collaborate on significant decisions, while sole decision-making grants one parent the final say, subject to the court’s review for the child’s best interests.

The court considers various factors, including the child’s adjustment to their school and community and the child’s relationship with each parent.

Can My Co-Parent Make a Decision Without Me

In Arizona, the ability of a co-parent to make unilateral decisions about a child’s education hinges on the type of legal decision-making authority awarded by the court.

Under ARS §25-403, parents can have either joint or sole legal decision-making.

In a joint arrangement, both parents must agree on major decisions, including those regarding their child’s schooling, preventing one parent from deciding without the other’s consent.

Sole legal decision-making allows one parent to make significant educational decisions independently, although such decisions can be challenged in court if believed not to serve the child’s best interest.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan That Works

A comprehensive parenting plan in Arizona should cover various aspects, including legal decision-making, parenting time, and how educational decisions are made. These plans serve as a roadmap for co-parenting, setting clear expectations and mechanisms for resolving disputes.

Example Parenting Plans for Education Decisions:

  • Joint Decision-Making Example: The plan might specify that both parents need to agree on the choice of the child’s school. It could outline steps for decision-making, such as requiring both parents to attend school open houses or meet with teachers before making a decision. For instance, “Both parents shall discuss and agree upon the child’s enrollment in either public or private schooling by attending at least two school open houses together each academic year.” 
  • Conflict Resolution Example: In cases where parents cannot agree, the plan might include a mediation clause. “If the parents cannot reach an agreement on the child’s educational needs, they agree to attend mediation with a qualified family mediator to resolve the dispute.”
  • Educational Involvement Example: The plan could detail each parent’s involvement in school activities, ensuring the child’s academic life is supported by both parents. “Each parent is responsible for attending parent-teacher conferences, and both shall share equally in the child’s homework and project responsibilities during their respective parenting times.”

A well-crafted parenting plan not only anticipates and provides solutions for potential conflicts but also reinforces the commitment of both parents to support their child’s education and well-being.

Arizona law encourages parents to work collaboratively in creating these plans, focusing on the child’s best interests.

When parents cannot agree on the appropriate school for their child, Arizona law provides several legal avenues to resolve these disputes. Understanding these options can help parents constructively get through disagreements, ensuring decisions align with the child’s best interests.

How Can the Family Court Help 

The family court plays an important role in resolving school enrollment disputes when parents are unable to reach an agreement. Through a variety of mechanisms, the court seeks to determine the most beneficial outcome for the child’s educational and overall well-being.

  • Court Intervention: If parents have joint legal decision-making authority but cannot agree on a school, either parent can petition the court to decide. The court will consider factors such as the child’s academic needs, the quality of the schools under consideration, and any special needs or extracurricular interests of the child that one school might better accommodate.


  • Mediation: Before making a decision, the court often encourages or requires parents to undergo mediation. This process involves a neutral third party helping parents reach a mutually acceptable agreement regarding their child’s education. Mediation aims to foster a cooperative decision-making environment, prioritizing the child’s needs and minimizing conflict.
  • Appointment of a Special Master: In some cases, the court may appoint a special master or educational consultant to investigate and recommend the best educational placement for the child. This individual would consider the child’s educational history, each parent’s concerns, and the potential impact on the child’s well-being before making a recommendation to the court.
  • Modification of Legal Decision-Making Authority: If ongoing disputes about schooling and other major decisions indicate that joint legal decision-making is not in the child’s best interest, the court may consider modifying the legal decision-making arrangement. This could involve granting one parent sole authority to make educational decisions if it’s determined to benefit the child’s academic and emotional development.

Engaging with the family court system can be a daunting process, but it serves as an avenue for resolving disputes that parents cannot settle on their own. The court’s interventions are designed to ensure that educational decisions are made in the best interests of the child, with the goal of providing them with a stable, supportive, and enriching learning environment.

Impact of School Enrollment Decisions on Child Support

In Arizona, school enrollment decisions can significantly influence child support calculations.

Child support, intended to address a child’s basic needs, may be adjusted based on educational costs.

This adjustment is particularly relevant when decisions involve private school tuition, special education needs, or extracurricular activities that require additional funding.

  • Private School Tuition: Enrollment in private school can lead to an increase in child support obligations to cover tuition fees, especially if the decision aligns with the child’s best interest or was made jointly by the parents.
  • Special Education Needs: Costs associated with special education programs for children with specific needs can also impact child support, covering expenses like specialized tuition, transportation, and accommodations.
  • Extracurricular Activities: The costs of extracurricular activities, linked to the school and contributing to the child’s development, may be factored into child support adjustments.

Parents should maintain clear records of educational expenses and communicate openly to facilitate adjustments in child support. The aim is to ensure the child’s educational and developmental needs are met without causing financial strain. 

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

Contact a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional

In family law, particularly when handling disputes over school enrollment decisions and their subsequent impact on child support, the guidance of a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional (FLPP) can be invaluable. FLPPs offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional legal services, providing expert advice and representation in family law matters within Arizona.

At De Novo Law, our team of FLPPs specializes in family law, including issues related to divorce, child custody, child support, and school enrollment decisions. Our paraprofessionals are well-versed in Arizona family law, ensuring that your case is handled with the utmost care and professionalism. 

Our FLPPs can help you:

  • Understand your legal rights and obligations concerning your child’s education and support.
  • Navigate the complexities of modifying child support due to changes in school enrollment.
  • Draft or review a parenting plan that includes provisions for educational decisions.
  • Represent you in family court, if necessary, to resolve disputes regarding school enrollment and ensure that the outcome serves your child’s best interests.

If you’re ready to take action and want expert help, contacting De Novo Law Firm is easy. De Novo Law offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case and can be reached at (480) 725-2200.


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DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.


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