Parents at war: the judge decides which child must attend school


A judge had to step in to decide where a girl goes to school. Picture/file

A judge has decided where a 5-year-old girl goes to school after an estranged couple’s confrontation ended in court.

The judge, in an urgent case, sided with the father who had pleaded for the girl to attend the same primary school as her other children, her sisters with whom she has close ties.

The girl’s mother wanted her to attend the school in her area.

Just days before the child is due to start primary school, a High Court judge had to hand down a ruling for the parents who separated two years ago and have a joint custody agreement.

It came after a family court ruling initially agreed with the girl’s mother and made her go to the local school.

The family court judge, who found that both parties were doing a good job of parenting, said, in general, that attending a school in their neighborhood and school zone allows the child to interact and bond friendships with other children in the region.

The friendships formed at school and in a child’s community are important to a child’s development and difficult to replicate outside the area, the judge said.

He also observed preschool friends going to school near the mother’s home.

The judge said he had to weigh the benefits of the girl attending the same school as her sisters against the impact on her of not being able to form friendships with children attending her local school and living in her community.

He also noted that the father could only pick up his daughter from the school of his choice after work around 5.45pm, but would arrange after-school care.

The judge concluded that the father’s approach was based on his needs and wishes and that he forgot that the decision had to be in the best interests and well-being of his daughter.

The family court ruling also changed a long-standing 2:2:3 shared-care plan, where the girl was meant to be “established and thriving”, to a new two-week cycle where the
father would see her much less.

The father rejected the claims and made an urgent appeal to the High Court, pleading for the girl to attend the same school as her sisters.

At the High Court hearing earlier this month, the father said everything he did was for his children.

“They are my life. I’ve organized my working life around them. I’m a working professional and that means I have less flexibility. But I don’t think being a working parent should be held back against me – I do my best to support my daughters, to be part of their lives as much as possible,” he said.

And in a recently published decision, the High Court found that the Family Court Judge had failed to correctly apply the principles of the Care of Children Act 2004 when determining which provision custody and what attendance at which school would “best promote the well-being and best interests”. of the child.

The benefits of attending the father’s chosen school and being alongside his sisters outweighed other considerations, the High Court judge ruled.

And while she admitted that friendships formed at school are important to a child’s development, the judge was unconvinced by the family court judge’s suggestion that it’s unlikely friendships can be maintained outside of school hours due to distance.

“There are so many factors that can influence the way relationships are developed and maintained that I find it to be conjecture rather than fact,” the High Court judge said.

The judge ordered that the child attend the same school as her sisters and that the 2:2:3 custody arrangement in place before the family court ruling be reinstated.


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