Some of the most important decisions that a parent will make are about their child’s education. With the rise in popularity of home-schooling, there may be situations where separated parents cannot agree about whether to home school their child or whether to enrol them in the traditional schooling system. 

In instances where both parents are considered guardians of the child, decisions about schooling need to be made jointly. This means that even if one parent has the primary day-to-day care of the child, both parents have equal decision-making rights in how and where the child should be educated.

Where there is a disagreement between two guardians about such matters, then it is strongly encouraged that they try to come an arrangement that prioritises the child’s best interests and welfare.

If an informal agreement cannot be reached, the parties must attempt to resolve their differences through family dispute resolution (FDR) unless they would be exempt from doing so (i.e. if there has been allegations of family violence). If the dispute is not resolved through FDR, then they can apply to the Family Court for a decision to be made.

While there are no clear legislative guidelines about what should be done in the event that parents cannot agree on whether they should home school their child or not, it is clear that that every child between the ages of 6 and 16 needs to be enrolled at a registered school. Any parent that does not fulfil their obligations in this respect will potentially receive a fine from the Ministry of Education.

Given these strict requirements it is important for parents to enrol that child in an acceptable form of education in the interim while waiting for the dispute to be resolved. This can be either enrolling the child in a registered school or home school the child. If you choose to temporarily home school your child, make sure you follow the correct procedure and obtain approval from the Ministry of Education to do so.  

When making a temporary decision about the schooling of the child, it is always best to consider what will be the least disruptive mechanism for the child. For example, a Court may be inclined to think that briefly enrolling a child in a public school then withdrawing them once a decision has been made to home school the child or have them attend another school, is more disruptive. This is because the child may have already established friendships and a good routine, so it would be harder for them to transition to home-schooling.

However, this will depend heavily on the circumstances as there is no clear guidance from either legislation or case law about how to navigate this issue.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that a Court will agree that the best course of action in every situation would be to home school the child until a decision is reached between the guardians.  For more information about things you will need to consider before you home school your child, click here. If you need guidance on this issue, it is always best to seek advice from a professional who will be able to assist you.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track. 

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.