In Texas, a suit for custody requires a court to allocate certain rights and duties between parents, including the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education. This can be a contentious issue, particularly when a child has special needs.
Generally, there are three ways a court will allocate this right: exclusively, independently, or subject to agreement.
Issues arise with all three.
For instance, the independent right to make decisions about the child’s education will only work as long as the parents agree. If a disagreement arises, the parents will likely find themselves back in court because the school will have conflicting positions.
A court’s decision to allocate this right by agreement only sounds good and may work very well; however, again, parents are likely to find themselves back in court should a disagreement arise. “Tie-breakers” can be a useful tool in this situation to prevent further litigation, but be weary of “tie-breakers” that require school involvement. For example, if mom and dad cannot agree on an educational decision, then they will follow the recommendations of the school counselor. School officials are unlikely to get involved and, therefore, this type of arrangement could ultimately lead the parties back to the courthouse.
Finally, awarding the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education to one parent exclusively can lead to a “power struggle” where one parent feels left out while the other parent holds his or her exclusive right over the other’s head. This arrangement does not encourage cooperation and co-parenting and, consequently, can result in a greater likelihood that the parties will find themselves back in court.
Should you find yourself in this situation, it is important to work closely with your lawyer to develop a creative solution to the problem – hopefully one that will encourage co-parenting and reduce the possibility of future litigation.
Remember, ultimately, the standard for who makes the educational decisions and how is based on the best interest of the child.