Choice of School, what if parents do not agree?
The choice of school or kindergarten is perceived by many parents as decisive for the positive development of their child or even for later success in life. Apart from the structural problem that there is still a lack of childcare places in Austria, there are already very different orientations in kindergartens but especially in schools. The agony of choice ranges from public schools, private Catholic schools, Waldorf schools, free-range schools to home schooling with external examinations.
Especially when it comes to such elementary decisions as the choice of school for the joint child, situations can arise where one parent is convinced of the educational concept of a school with the same passion as the other parent rejects it. Who can then decide which school the child should attend?
Choice of School with sole custody
The important factor when you want to determine who may decide about a childs school, is who has custody of the child. Custody also includes the competence to decide on educational matters. If only one parent has custody, he or she alone can decide on the school/kindergarten to be attended. However, the other parent has the right to be informed and to express his or her opinion.
Choice of School with joint custody
If both parents share custody, each parent can in principle fully represent the child. This means that each parent can register or deregister the child at a school alone, even against the will of the other parent. The consent of the other parent does not have to be proven for this. Only particularly important issues – such as a change of name, religion or nationality – require the consent of both parents. However, if one parent registers the child in school 1, the other parent deregisters the child and registers it in school 2, etc., this of course does not make sense.
Between the parents, the principle of mutual consent must be observed. This means that the parents should try to reach an agreement on important issues concerning the children. The choice of school for a child is such an important matter. Therefore, if one simply enrols or deregisters a child in a school against the will of the other parent, this can lead to disgruntlement in the best case and to a court dispute in the worst case. If parents cannot agree on a course of action regarding their children, the court could also be called upon in advance to make a decision on the choice of school.
How do courts decide if parents cannot agree on a school?
If a court has to decide which school a child should attend, the child’s best interests is what counts. Often such a situation means great stress for all concerned. In practice, courts use the expertise of experts to determine which school is most appropriate for the child. Factors can be the child’s abilities and interests on the one hand, and the parents’ economic capacity on the other. Such procedures cost not only time and money but also energy. An alternative to court proceedings could be joint parental counselling.
If, however, one parent only wants to torpedo the other parent, e.g. by destructively (repeatedly) deregistering the child from a school and this is detrimental to the child’s well-being, it can even lead to the (partial) custody of this area being withdrawn from that parent and the other parent being given sole decision-making authority for this area in the future. In general, it is also possible to exclude certain areas, such as school, when agreeing on joint custody, if such situations are feared.