Public or Private?

The decision to send a child to private or public school is certainly a complicated one for parents. The complication only increases for co-parents who are parenting from separate homes and finances. Divorced or never married parents can certainly decide that private school is best for their child, but it requires communication and cooperation.

The discussion begins with an exploration of how educational decisions are made in a particular family. When parents share joint legal custody, they must discuss and agree on decisions related to major life issues such as health, education and religion. This includes the school choice decision. Parents with joint legal custody must agree to the choice of a private school. In a situation where one parent has sole legal custody, that parent typically makes decisions regarding health, education and religion without the need for agreement by the other parent. Such a parent could decide on private school for a child. But then comes the issue of cost.

The cost of private school is not automatically split between parents. It must be the subject of agreement or court order regarding allocation between parents. Since the cost of private school varies widely depending on the chosen school, in the absence of agreement a court would look to a number of facts and factors to decide how to allocate costs. Facts such as the financial resources and financial obligations of the parents would be considered by the court. A history of a specific child attending private school thus far would be relevant to a court’s decision. In addition, an evaluation of the available public school options will be a likely consideration. If cost is a factor and there is an available public school which provides quality education, the parent desiring a private school education for a child should be prepared to bear the entire cost of it.

If you are considering private school for your child consider engaging in mediation with your co-parent. A mediator can facilitate a productive conversation about the costs and benefits of public versus private school in your specific family situation.

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