Which parent makes the call?

Educators are sometimes embroiled in family law disputes after a divorce.  Consider this common scenario: mom lives in District A.  Dad lives in District B.  Who decides which school district the kids will attend?

Under the Education Code, the children in this family can attend either school.  But if mom and dad cannot agree, then who gets to decide? 

That brings us to the Divorce Decree and/or other binding legal documents.  In this case, the relevant court order had two important provisions. First, it stated that the mom had the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence, so long as she stayed within a 25 mile radius of where the family lived at the time of divorce.  Second, it said that decisions about the children’s education would be made jointly.

A few years after the divorce, the mom remarried and moved. She stayed within the 25 mile radius, but the move took her from Plano ISD to Lewisville ISD. She enrolled the children in Lewisville and dad was not happy about it.  He took the matter back to court.

The court ruled in the dad’s favor:

While Mother has the exclusive right to designate the children’s residence within a 25-mile radius, Mother and Father share the right to make decisions concerning the children’s education and must concur in the exercise of that right. 

In other words, the right to determine “primary residence” did not automatically include the right to decide on a school. 

When you are caught between two parents in a dispute like this it’s essential that you know what the current court decree says.  Keep in mind that a Divorce Decree will be entered at the time of divorce but it can, and often is, modified later as circumstances change. So you need to be sure you have the operative document. The lawyers at our firm can help with that.

This one is In the Interest of K.S.F. and K.D.F., decided on February 3, 2023 by the Court of Appeals in Dallas. We found it at 2023 WL 1501632,


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

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