I Don’t Want To Send My Kids To School While COVID-19 Is Still A Concern. What Are My Legal Options?
On July 15, 2020, Spring Branch ISD and Harris ISD both released their learning models for the 2020-2021 school year. Please note this article is based on evolving information and the information contained herein is subject to change.
SBISD is currently offering both an in-person learning and a distance learning option. Parents are expected to choose which model they want for their child and consistently follow that plan (no switching between being on-campus and distance learning) for the first 9-week period. Parents can switch their election after the first quarter or SBISD may change their offerings entirely.
HISD has announced that all HISD students will continue distance learning through the start of school, September 8th until October 16th. The current expectation is that face-to-face learning for HISD students will commence on October 19, 2020 but that is subject to change. Parents will also have the option to opt out of face-to-face instruction for the entire school year. Please note that the official start of school has been pushed from August to September 8th, so for HISD parents with a Thursday period of possession, that does not start until the school calendar begins.
Great! Now what does that mean in relation to a child custody arrangement and my ability to make educational decisions? If you have an existing order in place (such as a Final Decree of Divorce or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship), it should contain language as to which parent conservator has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education. There are a few options:
- Exclusive Right – The parent who was awarded the exclusive right to make educational decisions is the parent who will be able to decide which learning model the child or children will be following for the school year. That parent could also decide that the child attend a private school that is offering a different learning model such as a private school.
Some orders include language that says “subject to consultation with the other parent conservator,” which means the parent with the exclusive right must let the other parent know what decision has been made but does not need to have a joint agreement with the other conservator.
- Joint Right – If the parent conservators have the joint right to make education decisions, then the parents must be unified in their decision. Most orders stipulate a tie-breaker if the parents cannot agree, such as the child’s guidance counselor or a therapist if the child is in counseling. If you and the other parent conservator are not in agreement as to what learning module your children or child will be enrolled in, you should contact the person designated as the tie-breaker to discuss.
- Independent Right – This is not commonly seen for making educational decisions. The school district is requiring that a family commit to only one learning module and attendance will be required as under normal circumstances. If the right to make educational decisions is designated as independent in your court order AND you are not in agreement with the other parent conservator, you should reach out to an attorney today.
If a parent conservator does not want to send a child to school and wants to find private childcare that may be within their legal rights (depending upon above information) but that DOES NOT mean that the other parent-conservator will be required to share in that cost or their child support will be increased.
It is important to remember the terms of your existing order remain in place until further modified by a Court. If you have discussed options with the other parent-conservator and it is apparent the existing order is unworkable, you should contact a licensed Texas family law attorney today to discuss your legal options. We expect many Houston-area families will need legal assistance to sort out education decisions, do not wait until the last minute.
We are all navigating this new world of uncertainty together. The Ramos Law Group, PLLC is doing its due diligence in staying updated on evolving policies and procedures that may affect our clients and the Family Law world in general. Because there is so much unknown, we do recommend that our clients and potential clients do everything in their power to amicably decide on things such as educational decisions, medical decisions, child care, etc. The last thing anyone needs is family law litigation on top of everything you have going on right now. If a joint solution cannot be reached, then call our office today so we can discuss options.