Don’t switch school districts

Posted June 24th, 2016.

Categories: Custody Tips, Family Law.

changing schools mark guralnick

In a contested child custody case, judges often examine the history and experiences of the parents to determine whether they each provide a stable lifestyle for the children. The flip side is that judges tend to deny custody rights to parents who have demonstrated a history of instability or unpredictability. This is because the prevailing wisdom has always been that children tend to flourish and excel in consistently stable environments.

To uphold this principle, parents should not switch school districts, particularly once the children graduate from grade school. While moving from one house to another may be necessary as a result of a change in employment or an expanding family, every effort should be undertaken — when possible — to remain within the same school district. Switching districts means that the children have less connection to the community, fewer friends, and little or no link to sports and recreational activities.

If you’re in the midst of a child custody case, or such a case is on the horizon, switching school districts could make it much more difficult to secure the assistance of valuable witnesses such as school teachers, counselors, coaches, and parents of your children’s friends. It may, in fact, be more difficult to obtain documentary evidence from the school district you left behind. Ultimately, the parent who pulls out of a school district loses all of the momentum and good will she built up, in that school district, over the course of years.

Of course, one should never switch districts if the other parent is fighting for custody and will be remaining in the same district.

Children don’t like to leave their schools behind either. Older children, especially those in high school, tend to object forcefully to any plan to change schools. Switching districts against a child’s will may prompt the child to tell a counselor, a custody evaluator, or a judge that she wants to live with the other parent — either because doing so will restore her to her original school district, or because she is spitefully angry at the parent who made her switch schools.

So, while some moves are inevitable, the impact of switching school districts should be seriously evaluated, and every effort should be exerted to avoid making a switch.

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