Arkansas courts try to do what is in a child’s best interests when making custody decisions. To that end, the state’s legislature enacted Act 604 to make joint custody the default arrangement for families.
However, this preference creates additional considerations for determining a child’s schooling that parents must address.
When the court may intervene
In joint custody, both parents have equal decision-making authority for medical, legal and educational matters. The parents must work together to submit a parenting plan that meets the court’s approval.
If the co-parents cannot cooperate, the court may assign one parent legal custody or the responsibility of the decision over schooling. Since a judge wants to do what favors the child, the parent who seems more reasonable and responsible will likely receive that authority.
Factors parents can consider when choosing a school
When co-parents have equal custody but live in different school districts, they can review various factors to make a choice that benefits the child. Parents do well to think about more than the distance of the school from each residence and the institution’s reputation. The mental and emotional impact of a transfer may be critical to the child’s well-being.
Divorce is typically a stressful time for a child, and changing schools can increase a youth’s anxiety. Studies find that changing schools is problematic for a child’s emotional health and stability.
A child may have close friends and mentors at the current facility who can provide support during this time. Losing contact with these connections can lead to low self-esteem, depression and poor academic performance.
Now that Arkansas courts opt for joint custody, the issue of choosing a school could become more complex. Each parent should take extra care to make a wise choice for a child.