Choice of School – Changing school in a Michigan Divorce or custody case.
By: Daniel Findling (c) 2015 TheDivorceGuy.com
Almost every parent wants the best education for their child. In most Michigan divorce and custody cases, parties are awarded joint legal custody, As joint legal custodians, parents must jointly make decisions regarding the educational upbringing of their child. In simple terms, both parents have an equal say regarding choice of school in Michigan.
Choice of school in Michigan can be a pillar of contention. So what can a parent do if they cannot agree on a choice of school in Michigan?
The answer to the question is to go to court. The landmark choice of school case in Michigan was decided by the Michigan Supreme Court on May 11, 2010. The case is entitled Pierron v. Pierron. The Pierron parents lived in Gross Point, Michigan when they divorced. One parent moved 60 miles away to Howell, Michigan and tried to enroll the children in Howell public schools over the other parent’s objections.
The trial court conducted a hearing and the case was appealed twice, ultimately being decided by the Michigan Supreme Court which clarified Michigan choice of school law. In simple terms, when parents cannot agree on an important decision, such as choice of school in Michigan, the trial court must conduct a hearing and decide the issue applying the best interest of the child factors. The court hearing is called a Lombardo hearing.
In most cases, the trial court does not have to examine every best interest factor when deciding a choice of school case in Michigan unless the choice of school would in change custody. In a change in custody case every best interest factor must be examined.
So what factors does the court consider in a choice of school case in Michigan?
While every best interest factor should be considered in a choice of school case, the most relevant factors include:
- Best interest of the child factor (b) which specifically addresses the education of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (d) addresses the stability of the child’s environment and the desirability of maintaining the family unit. This factor can play an important role if the choice of school issue involves moving to a new location and making new friends.
- Best interest of the child factor (e) may be important as well if the choice of school disrupts the family unit.
- Best interest of the child factor (h) examines the home, school and community record of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (i) examines the reasonable preference of the child.
- Best interest of the child factor (j) examines the home, school and community record of the child; and
- Best interest of the child factor (l) examines any other factor considered by the court to be relevant
When preparing for a choice of school case in Michigan, preparation is key.
In preparing for a choice of school case, we typically research standardized test scores, teacher parent ratios, special education resources and access to extra-curricular activities in addition to the social aspects of the school choice. The ability to get a child to school timely can often play a role in a choice of school case other factors.
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By: Daniel Findling