Divorce is a life-altering event, especially when children are involved. One often important aspect of divorce proceedings in Ohio is determining the school placement parent. This is not the parent who, by this designation alone, would have the legal authority to make educational decisions for the child, but rather it is the parent whose residence will determine in which public school district the parties’ child/children is/are entitled to be enrolled and attend.
Who is a School Placement Parent?
- In Ohio, the “school placement parent” refers to the parent whose home address will determine in which public school district (and often which public school in that district) the child/children may be enrolled and attend.
- Often the divorcing parents establish separate residences in the same school district, and if so, both parents can then be designated as “school placement parent.”
- However, when the parents have residences in different school districts, the parents can either agree as to which parent will be the designated school placement parent, or, if the parents are in disagreement and the matter is before the court in a contested divorce case, the judge can determine which parent is school placement parent.
- Other than determining in which school district the child/children may be enrolled and therefore attend, being designated school placement parent, in and of itself, gives the parent no additional legal rights and responsibilities to make other decisions regarding the education and schooling of the child or children involved in a divorce.
- This is a consideration only for public education; private schools including parochial school enrollment is not involved in this designation.
Determining the School Placement Parent–Considerations
- Getting the Best Education for the Child: Divorcing parents may disagree about many things, but most often they are in agreement that they want their child enrolled in the best public school—depending on where the parents can afford to buy or rent a home and in what district. Not all school districts offer the same quality education, and where the parents have available to them a school district that, by reputation and statistics, offer high or higher quality public education, parents will most often agree and choose the better or best school district, and then often (but not always) the parent who is or will be living in the best or better school district, is designated the school placement parent. This is often the consideration when the parents are selling the marital home and each parent will be moving into a new home.
- Keeping the Child in the Same School District: If one of the divorcing parents is keeping the marital home post-divorce, and the child is still in school, most often the parents agree that keeping the child in the same school district, and in the same school, is in the child’s best interest because this maintains stability for the child. So, absent other considerations, the parent who is keeping the marital home would be designated school placement parent.,
- Child’s Preferences: Even if the child is of an appropriate age and maturity level, the child’s preference may not be considered by a Court in the decision-making process. However, as a practical matter, an older child’s preferences (and the child’s reasons for his/her preference) should be considered by the parents if not technically/legally per se the Court. Usually, a child is reluctant to change schools, even when there is no practical alternative, but counselors will tell you that children quickly adjust.
- Proximity to School: The distance between each parent’s residence and the child’s school should be a consideration. As a practical matter, the child’s school schedule—e.g., school hours, extracurricular activities, etc. most likely also will impact each parent’s schedule. Parents know they need to be close to their child’s school for multiple reasons, including to facilitate transportation to and from school and extracurricular activities.
Shared Parenting Arrangement
- In Ohio, the courts strongly favor shared parenting arrangements to ensure both parents remain actively involved in the child’s life and decision-making process.
- Residential Parent vs. School Placement Parent: Shared parenting arrangements embedded in a written Shared Parenting Plan, usually will designate one parent as the school placement parent, but both parents may be designated as a school placement parent IF both parents live in the same school district. However, even if only one parent is designated as school placement parent, both parents are still designated “residential parent and legal custodian” and each parent may be allocated all parental rights and responsibilities regarding the child/children except as may otherwise be addressed and stated in the Shared Parenting Plan.
Legally Binding; Modifications
- A parent’s designation as school placement parent ultimately will be per a Court Order/Decree, even if this is by the parents’ agreement that is incorporated into a Decree as any agreement would be. When this designation is then incorporated into a Court Order/Decree, this becomes legally binding, and both parents must adhere to it. School districts often ask to see the Court Order/Decree naming a parent as school placement parent, and the parents are obligated to provide this to the school district. The district can enroll a child “provisionally” on the basis that the Court Order/Decree will be provided.
- However, custody arrangements are not set in stone and can be modified in the future if circumstances change significantly, such as a change in the child’s needs or one parent relocating. When parents move, and they now agree that the other parent will be the school placement parent, or absent an agreement, one parent wishes to file a post marriage termination motion to be named the school placement parent, a new Court Order/Decree must be obtained which provides for this. If the change is made close to the commencement of a new school year, there may not be sufficient time to obtain a new Court Order/Decree, even if such is by agreement between the parents, but many school districts will give a parent seeking to enroll the child in the new school district, a reasonable period of time to obtain the new Order/Decree.
Communication and Cooperation
- To ensure a smooth transition for the child, divorced parents are encouraged to maintain open and respectful communication.
- Both parents should cooperate in matters concerning the child’s education, as a positive and supportive environment is crucial for the child’s academic and emotional well-being.
Contact The Law Office of Nancy L. Sponseller
For questions regarding divorce, child custody and family law please contact Nancy Sponseller at (614) 764-0423 to schedule a consultation. The Law Office of Nancy L. Sponseller is located at 5890 Sawmill Road, Suite 110, Dublin, OH 43017.