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What Happens When You and Your Child’s Other Florida-Based Parent are Hopelessly Deadlocked in Making an Important Child Welfare Decision?

Many courts, when facing a divorce or paternity case, award the parents shared parental responsibility. In fact, shared parental responsibility is the default option that will be implemented unless there is proof that such a custody arrangement would be against the best interest of the child. However, what happens if you and your child’s other parent are at complete opposites when it comes to a major decision, such as the child’s education? Hopefully, you can find a way to resolve the issue between yourselves but, other times, litigation may be necessary. When that happens, you’ll want to reach out to an experienced Florida family law attorney.

A recent Miami-Dade case presented such an impasse. The parents divorced in 2015. The children were 9 and 8 at that time. During the 2017-18 school year, the children attended public school in Pinecrest. For the 2018-19 academic year, the mother wanted the kids to continue in public school, while the father wanted to enroll them in a nearby Christian academy. The father asserted that the Christian school offered a stronger academic program for the children, and the father also offered to pay the entire cost of the kids’ private school tuition. Nevertheless, the mother still opposed the change.

With the parents unable to resolve their disagreement, the matter went to court. The trial judge sided with the father, and ordered that he pursue applying for admission for the children and enroll them if the school accepted them.

The wife appealed but did not succeed. There are some situations where a custody order may state that parents have shared decision-making responsibilities but that one parent has “tie-breaking” authority in the event that the two cannot agree on a particular subject like the child’s education. If neither parent has tie-breaking authority and the two parents cannot agree, then the dispute must go before the trial court. The trial judge will resolve the impasse by performing an analysis to decide the best interest of the child.

Contrary to this mother’s argument in the appeals court, the fact that the 2018-19 school year would not begin for another 10 months after the hearing did not make it an improper prospective (in other words, future-looking) decision. (Be aware, though, that there are limits to what a trial judge can do. In 2012, an appeals court threw out a decision on a to-homeschool-or-not-to-homeschool dispute where the child was still 20 months away from starting kindergarten.)

Another important part of the appeals court’s decision related to the proof the father needed to support his claim that he could shoulder the entire expense of the children’s tuition. The father testified that he had the resources to meet the obligation, and the mother had no evidence to counter that assertion. This testimony by the father was enough. (The amount of proof he needed was less because he was taking on the responsibility voluntarily, not having it forced upon him by the court.)

So, as this case demonstrates, there are many different legal rules when it comes to resolving parental decision-making impasses, and the proof needed in your hearing. If you find yourself in a child custody decision-making dispute that you can’t resolve on your own, the best thing to do is to arm yourself with a knowledgeable Florida attorney. Miami family law attorney Sara Saba has been providing reliable advice and strong advocacy for her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated solely to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

How to Go About Resuming Unrestricted Timesharing with Your Child Following a Florida Court Order of Supervised Visitation, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 29, 2018

What the Law Does (and Does Not) Allow Courts to Do in Florida Child Custody and Timesharing Disputes, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 17th, 2018