Legal custody, school choice, and Wisconsin divorce or paternity

Legal custody, school choice, and Wisconsin divorce or paternity

After a Wisconsin divorce or paternity matter, the question often arises as to where the children will attend school.   In most cases, the parents share joint custody of the children.  Joint custody gives each parent an equal right to make major decisions for children.  One of those decisions that leads to the most conflict is choice of which school a child will attend.   This issue assumes particular importance if the parents live in different school districts.   Since a child can only attend one school, this is one of the few areas in family law disputes where one parent will clearly “win” and the other will “lose.”

Joint legal custody after a Wisconsin divorce or paternity matter is not very well defined.  It gives both parents the right to make major decisions.  The legal definition of joint custody also states that neither parent’s custodial rights are superior.  Decision on school attendance is considered a major decision. So if the parents disagree on this issue, who gets to choose?

The mother in a recently decided Court of Appeals case, Marcott v. Marcott, following a Wisconsin divorce, felt that she had the right to decide the children’s school location without input from the father because the children were primarily placed with her.  She argued that, as the “primary parent,” she had the right to make custodial decisions. Make the right decision by visiting this site The Court disagreed, ruling that joint legal custody requires that neither parent can make important custodial decisions over the other’s objection.  The Court specifically ruled that the choice of the child’s school location is not a routine daily decision that either parent could make on their own.  Instead, it required agreement.

So what happens if the parents cannot agree on the child’s school  district?  The only remedy at that point is to let the judge decide.  Judges truly dislike making these decisions because it is extremely difficult to determine whether one school district in a given city is better than another.   Other factors, such as the school’s distance, special programs, transportation, etc. come into play.

If you are facing a dispute over your child’s school attendance, I strongly recommend that you contact me for a consultation to ensure you are best prepared to plead your case before the judge.

Published by David Kowalski

Attorney David Kowalski is the founding owner of Kowalski, Wilson & Vang, LLC, handling all family law cases from divorce, paternity, child custody, termination of parental rights, restraining orders, and guardianships.

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