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Divorce, Separation Raise School-Related Concerns

Q: My divorce has just been finalized and my ex-husband and I live in different school districts. Where can our children go to school?
A: If you have full custody, then your child can go to school in the district in which you live. However, if you and your former husband have a joint custody agreement or a shared parenting plan, your children can attend school in either your district or your former spouse’s, unless the custody agreement specifically designates a parent as the parent of residence for school purposes. 
 
Q: My ex-wife got remarried and her husband, my children’s step-father, is trying to gain access to our children’s educational records. Can he do that?
A: He has no right to access your children’s records or to formally participate in educational decision making unless he has formally adopted your children. If he has done this, then he has become your children’s legal guardian and, as such, can access their records.
 
Q: I have full custody of my children and I have instructed the school not to give any information about my children to my ex-spouse. Then I found out my ex-spouse looked at my children’s records. Why didn’t the school officials follow my directions?
A: Only the court can terminate your former spouse’s right to see your children’s records. Both state and federal law obligate schools to allow both parents to access their children’s records. Unless a court order says otherwise, both parents can participate in conferences, attend IEP meetings and access records. A parent has these educational rights even if he or she does not have physical custody rights. The school is not responsible for investigating the details of court orders regarding parental rights, and as a general rule, schools are advised to avoid taking sides in custody or divorce situations.
 
The law requires parents to provide the school with a certified copy of any custody order whenever a child enrolls in school or whenever the custody order is made. If the order is modified, the parent must notify the school by providing certified copies of the new court order. If the custody order does not clearly terminate the other parent’s educational rights, then the school must continue to allow both parents to participate in their children’s educational process.
 
Q: My daughter is a senior in high school and I have full custody after a recent divorce. I am moving to another school district, but my daughter wants to attend her old school for her final year. Is that possible?
A: If your daughter’s senior year classes have already begun, a school board may approve that she stay in the district without paying tuition for the rest of the school year. Boards of education do not have to allow this, but they are allowed to do so. If the board does not permit your daughter to continue to attend without paying tuition, you still may be able to pay tuition so she can stay, as long as the board of education accepts tuition students.
 
Q: I have full custody of my children. I have also filed for a restraining order against my ex-husband and moved to a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. Can he gain access to the children’s records in order to find out where we have moved?
A: If you have moved to a shelter for victims of domestic violence and your children are attending a new school in that district, you should notify the new school about the situation. They will notify your previous district that you are in the care of a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Once this notification has been received, the previous school district will no longer be allowed to give your ex-husband any information regarding the current enrollment of your children or give him any information that might help him determine your children’s location.

Q: I have full custody of my children. However, I am seriously ill and want my parents to take care of my children and fully participate in their education. My ex-husband does not want my children to live with my parents and is demanding that the children live with him. Does he have the right to reverse my full custody order in this case?
A: No. Until and unless a court says otherwise, you have full custody of your children. Therefore, you may execute a power of attorney under Ohio’s grandparent caretaker law because you are seriously ill. This document permits you to easily transfer rights to your parents so they can: (a) exercise care, physical custody and control of your children; (b) enroll your children in their school district on a tuition-free basis; (c) obtain educational and behavioral information about the children; (d) provide consent to all educational matters; and (e) provide consent to medical, psychological and dental treatment.
 
11/26/2013
 

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by attorney Gary T. Stedronsky of Ennis Roberts Fischer Co., L.P.A. in Cincinnati. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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