A Florida judge unexpectedly ordered a mother to place her homeschooled children into a public school during a divorce hearing even though child custody and the children’s education had not been placed in issue. The divorcing parents were in court on another issue when the children’s guardian ad litem — a person appointed by the court to represent the children’s best interests –told the judge that she did not believe it was in the children’s best interests for them to be homeschooled.
The judge agreed with her. Without consulting the father or having previously given notice that he was going to consider this issue, the judge ordered the children into public school pending an appeal. Home school advocates were outspoken against the decision and the judge’s rationale, and also noted that the family’s decision keep the kids at home was in part motivated by religion.
This case highlights an often overlooked aspect of child custody issues: that even when the parties are in agreement, the final decision still rests with the court. Although the court considers the positions of the parents and, when they are mature enough, the children, the deciding factor in a child custody issue is what the judge thinks is in the best interests of the children.
This is why it’s often a good idea to involve an attorney in even an amicable divorce. Although the parents can now appeal the judge’s decision, this issue might have been prevented. A proactive attorney might have realized that homeschooling is not universally accepted and have prepared the parents for how to respond if the issue was suddenly raised as it was here.
Source: WND Education, “Family banned from homeschooling after divorce,” Bob Unruh, Dec. 12, 2013