In a recent case to come before the Family Court, a disagreement between parents regarding their sons attending a religious intermediate/high school has resulted in a decision for the children to attend a non-religious school.

The parents had previously been involved with the church and practiced their religion. After the separation of their parents, the children and their mother maintained this lifestyle. Their father did not.

The dispute arose when both parents chose different intermediate schools for the sons to attend. As schooling is a decision required to be made by both parents, the dispute was brought before the court.

The Court must take into account the welfare and best interests of the children. In particular, the Court needed to ensure that:

  1. There is continuity of care, development and upbringing for the children
  2. That the continuity of upbringing is the primary responsibility of the parents through ongoing consultation and cooperation; and
  3. The children’s identity should be preserved and strengthened

The Judge acknowledged that the children’s preference was to attend the religious school.

However, the Judge did not believe attending a non-denominational school would impact on the children’s identities to a great extent, as they could still be involved in religious activities after school and on weekends.

In making his decision, the Judge noted the strained relationship the sons currently had with their father.

Enrolling them in a religious school, where the father was not likely to be welcome at events and gatherings, may have caused the relationship to deteriorate further.

Furthering of the children’s religious identities was outweighed by the significant risk of damaging or potentially losing the children’s relationship with their father.

The Judge ordered the children to attend non-denominational schooling for both their intermediate and high school educations.

Shaun Cousins
Family Lawyer