Can I enroll my children in a school of my choosing if I am separated from my wife? 25 Answers as of January 21, 2011

My wife and I have 5 kids. A month ago she left and moved across town. The 3 older kids (teenagers) stayed with me she took the 2 younger kids, ages 10 and 8. She then removed them from their school and enrolled them across town at another school against my objections. I want to do what is best for my kids and was wondering since we are still married and no papers have been filed, is there anything stopping me from picking my 10 and 8 year old up from school and enrolling them in their old school where they want to be?

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Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
No, there should not be. You should, however, bear in mind that school officials at these two schools most definitely do not want to see a kind of "seesaw syndrome" develop with respect to the school enrollment of these children.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 1/20/2011
Law Office of Curry & Westgate
Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
Yes you can, but she can then take the kids out and enroll in another school. You need to file with the court to obtain a court order.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/20/2011
Law Office of Tim W. Avery
Law Office of Tim W. Avery | Tim W. Avery
If there are no existing court orders at this time then yes you can. But before you start going around and jerking kids out of school and moving them and then she does the same, ask yourself how that will affect the children's emotional well-being and furthermore, make you look in front of a judge when you do go to court. Because if you and your wife start playing tug-a-war with the kids, you will end up in court. So best advice is for you is to look more responsible and seek court orders for the relief that you wish to have.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 1/20/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Yes and No. Legally, the answer is that you as a parent have equal rights. Morally speaking, think before you act. What will your estranged spouse do, will this turn into a change of school everyday? How will a Judge view her actions or yours? If she has primary custody of the kids, but you just want them in the school of your choosing . . . how will the Judge view your position, how much burden does moving the school cause to either you or your wife? Would you be willing to compromise? Have you tried or asked? (these last two questions always look good when presenting the issue to a judge later)

Have you considered filing with the Court to get this issue addressed? If you have been separated for a month and she just changed schools recently, file now while she looks like the aggressor. If she did this right after leaving and it has been a month for the kids in the new school . . . go back to my statement to "think before you act". It does not mean do not move the kids, just consider your actions and how you will react if she changes them back or files with the Court and you have to explain yourself. The fact one child is 10 makes a lot of difference, particularly if he or she is articulate and can explain to the Judge why he or she wants to live with one parent or be in one school over another. The 8 year old is just along for the ride - there is not current rule of law that requires the Court to consider his or her desires or even listen to them.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 1/20/2011
Michael Apicella
Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
Because you said no case has been filed or opened with the court, I'm assuming there are no custody orders at present. If there is no court order, then there is no order to violate by making unilateral decisions and taking related actions when it comes to the children's education. However, even though neither party is technically violating any court order, it is not healthy to expose the kids to such a dysfunctional dynamic where the parents can't cooperate on schooling decisions. I would suggest that you and your wife sit down with a mediator or marriage family therapist to work out a parenting plan, including education decisions, that make sense for the children. If you can't do that, then you need to open a case with the court and get court orders on this custody issue. It would be best to have a conversation on the phone or in person (not via email) with a local family law lawyer to discuss this issue in more detail, where all the facts and options can be properly covered.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/20/2011
    Lori C. Obenauf LLC
    Lori C. Obenauf LLC | Lori C. Obenauf
    While there is nothing in the law preventing you from taking this action at this time, it seems counterproductive unless and until you and your wife reach an agreement or you otherwise obtain a court order stating which parent will determine the school that the children will attend in the event you cannot agree. Consider engaging a lawyer or a mediator to assist you in settling this matter, as well as any other matter brought about as a result of your separation.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    Law Office of Martin Blank
    Law Office of Martin Blank | Martin E. Blank
    Until there are court orders there is nothing stopping you. However, this type of fight does not serve the children well. If the two of you cannot agree on what is best then moving into the courts for an order seems like the best solution.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    Ordinarily the kids have to go to school where they reside. You can contact Pupil Personnel or the Superintendent to determine the particular rules for your town. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    There is nothing legally to prevent you from re-enrolling your children in their old school if there is not a Court Order granting one of you primary physical custody of the children. However, as a caring parent you might want to consider if this is in your children's best interest. Only you can answer this question. These two young children have been taken from their home and enrolled in a new school. How long have they been in this school and have they adjusted to the new situation.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    441 Legal Group, Inc.
    441 Legal Group, Inc. | Gareth H. Bullock
    No but doing so is going to lead to a court battle as if neither one of you can agree on the best interest of your kids the Courts will have to. Its best to either seek marriage counseling/therapy or file a divorce to resolve the issues re the Children.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Without a court order, issues with children become a rather difficult tug of war. Each parent has equal rights and there is nothing to preclude them from acting for their children. A court may resolve such issues as part of a divorce or legal separation through a hearing related to issues of temporary relief.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 1/20/2011
    Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law
    Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law | Edwin Fahlen
    We need to get to court and get orders on this issue before it gets out of hand. This would be a good time to "strike". I wouldn't delay if I were you. You have a very good opportunity to take advantage of the facts.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
    Technically there is nothing in place to stop you, but doing so will certainly cause turmoil.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Colucci and Associates
    Colucci and Associates | Paul Colucci
    Sorry to hear of your situation. It is hard enough for your kids to endure the separation let alone the trauma of being uprooted. You must act immediately to secure an order from the appropriate court to protect their interests as well as your own. Time is of the essence. You must act as soon as possible. You may call me at 734.261.1111 to discuss the matter further. Thanks for the question.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    DiManna Law Office, LLC.
    DiManna Law Office, LLC. | Dawn DiManna
    No, but you should go to court and have an order so that the co-parenting relationship doesn't deteriorate beyond repair.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    You shouldn't play tug-of-war with your wife about the children. You should promptly retain a Family Law Attorney to file a divorce case and an Order to Show Cause regarding Child Custody and Visitation, in which you request the Court to make orders pertaining to the schooling of the two youngest children (among other things). Were you tore-enroll the children in their old school, your wife may likely file a divorce case and an Order to Show Cause, and a Court might penalize you for playing tug-of-war. If your wife is granted custody of the two youngest children, the Court might see the sense of putting those children back in their old school to the end of the semester (but then let your wife move the children to the new school), or alternatively, the Court might look at the geographical convenience of the new school and permit her to keep the children in their new school. The Court could, but is not required to,consider the childrens' desires. It may be a good idea to request, in your Order to Show Cause, to have minors' counsel appointed to represent the interests of the children, so that their desires can be conveyed to the court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law
    William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law | William C. Gosnell
    In Tennessee, and every state is different I recommend against that. If you wish to reconcile that is a bad move. If you wish to divorce then all of those things can be negotiated. Don't do anything she will use against you later.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Pisarra and Grist
    Pisarra and Grist | David T. Pisarra
    You can do that. You need to file for a divorce and get the power of the court behind you. It will also protect you having custody of your kids. Go buy my books. They're written for you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Without a court order defining specifically what authority each parent has, you and your wife have equal (but undefined) "legal" authority as to everything. While you have the right to object to anything she does, your objections don't control what she can do alone. You "can" return your children to the old school; but, there is nothing to keep your wife from returning them to the new school. The result is that the two of you could end up "abusing" the children by treating them as possessions to be snatched and grabbed at will. If your separation is intended to be a permanent modification of the family structure, you need to file divorce papers and get a firm parenting plan adopted as a court order. For the sake of your children, until the matter is decided by a judge you and your wife need to find a way to agree on things and how to make compromises when you each have different opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Harris Law Firm, pc
    Harris Law Firm, pc | Robert Harris
    You need to act in the best interests of the children. It is not in their best interests to be transferred back and forth between schools and put them in the middle of this dispute. Regardless of your wife's unilateral behavior, you need to be the bigger person and take the necessary steps to make sure your children don't suffer.

    And, If the children are going to stay with the wife, and she ultimately gets custody, she will be deciding where they go to school, so its possible that at the end of the process, she is going to be deciding on their education anyway. If you intend to dispute cusody of the younger kids, then the better you act in this current situation, the more likely you will look like the bigger person.

    The worst thing you can do, from the courts standpoint, is to go into their school and remove them unilaterally. It makes you look like you are more interested in punishing your ex wife than being a good and caring parent.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Maclean Chung Law Firm
    Maclean Chung Law Firm | G. Thomas MacLean Jr.
    You should avoid taking matters into your own hands. Since it sounds like neither of you agree on what to do, this matters really should be brought before a court without delay to avoid back and forth changes and potentially escalating the matter. Feel free to contact us to discuss what your options are to start a custody case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Law Office of Stephen Pearcy
    Law Office of Stephen Pearcy | Stephen Pearcy
    Since no papers have been filed, there are no temporary or permanent court orders preventing either of you from doing that.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
    Goldberg Jones
    Goldberg Jones | Zephyr Hill
    Nothing is stopping you from doing just that. However, you have to ask how long that strategy will work. Eventually you need to stop the tug of war and get on the same page. Until you have an order in place regarding visitation and this school issue, you and she can each continue to play these games. I suggest you attempt some counseling or just get the divorce started so that you can begin to transition the relationship and make sure things do not get too rocky for the kids. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
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