This article by Silk Family Law partner Harriet Reid was first published in the Yorkshire Post ‘Country Week’ supplement on Saturday 12th September 2020.

The applications deadline at most Yorkshire schools for the year commencing September 2021 is 31 October 2020 for secondary and 15 January 2021 for primary. I am currently acting for a number of families who haven’t agreed on schooling arrangements, so time is running short.

Back to school written on a chalkboard

As children return to school for the Autumn term, we return to some sense of normality and routine in these strange times. For many separated families, the last few months have brought the additional challenge of ensuring children spend time with both parents and maintain contact with their wider families. For those yet to return to pre-Covid contact arrangements, the new school term should allow these to resume.

Inevitably, this ‘back to school’ period reminds all parents of rising five and eleven year-olds of the need to choose their child’s new school and register them for the following year. Choosing a school is an important decision for any parent. Separated parents now increasingly share the care of their children, but live in different homes often some distance apart and in different school catchment areas. Agreeing where a child should go to school can therefore become a flashpoint for dispute. 

Who decides where a child goes to school?

Parents who share parental responsibility must agree upon the schooling for their child. Neither parent has the right to make the decision unilaterally.

If they cannot agree, the court may need to decide what is in the child’s best interests. Applications concerning children are still progressing through the courts via remote or socially distant hearings, but progress may be slower than usual as it can be more difficult to get hearings dealt with. Parents who may need to use the court should therefore seek specialist legal advice as early as possible if the dispute is to be resolved before the school application deadline.

Nothing is more important or emotive than issues involving our children. As family lawyers, we at Silk Family Law have sadly seen how Coronavirus has impacted the time some of our clients have been permitted to spend with their children. But we have been available to help them through the legal system to resolve issues with minimal conflict and as expediently as possible.

To avoid court delays and reduce costs, we can also guide parents though alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.

Silk Family Law partner Harriet Reid is a trained collaborative family lawyer and Resolution member, committed to non-confrontational approaches to resolving family issues. For legal advice on any children issues, contact Harriet Reid on 01748 900 694 or harriet.reid@silkfamilylaw.co.uk.