Disagreements about schooling

Choosing a school is always a big decision to make but when parents are separated the decision-making process can become even more complicated.

Making the decision to separate or divorce is one of the biggest decisions that a parent will make. It represents the first step in developing a new co-parenting relationship between you and your ex and, particularly at the outset (or when circumstances change), it can be difficult to know which aspects of co-parenting you will be able to agree on. 

Selecting a school for your child is a big decision to make for them, and where you and your ex share parental responsibility, decisions about education or childcare should be taken jointly.  


Cases involving disputes over schooling can be challenging and education can be a divisive topic. Not everyone agrees on what is best for a child’s development and learning. Some prefer schools with a strict academic policy and top exam results whilst others prefer a more rounded education which focuses on a child’s strengths. There is no one right answer and every child will have different needs. 

Our lawyers

Speaking to a family lawyer early on is essential. We will be able to explain the different methods that can be used to find a solution that works for your family and your child. We have mediators and arbitrators who can use their specialist training to help you and your ex partner arrive at a joint decision. We also have a mediator trained in child-inclusive mediation who can talk with your child as part of the mediation process helping you both to understand your child’s views, needs and wishes.  

Some of the clients we have helped include:  

  • We have represented a parent in a high conflict dispute where there was a disagreement about changing the child's school where the child had special educational needs.
  • Our lawyers acted in one of the first family law arbitrations. The case involved an urgent application to change a child's school and there were a number of interfaith and cultural concerns to accommodate.
  • We advised and represented our client - a professional footballer - in a schooling dispute that needed to be resolved before the end of the school holidays.  Our client opted to use arbitration which provided the family with privacy, speed, an experienced children law arbitrator and proved to be far more cost effective then going to court.
  • We recently and successfully dealt with a dispute between parents as to whether or not their children should attend a Jewish school at weekends.
  • Using child inclusive mediation, our client's child was able to voice their concerns about moving to a boarding school.  This was fed into the mediation between the parents. Their concerns were taken on board and the child's wish to remain at their current school was ultimately respected by their parents.

What you need to know

Disputes over education or schooling can arise in many ways. Even if you and your ex agree which school or nursery your child attends, it is sensible to get written agreement from everyone who has parental responsibility for them. 

Where possible, it is best to try to come to an agreement about any decision over schooling. You could use direct communication, negotiating through solicitors, mediation or collaborative law. Coming to an agreement together gives you the opportunity to find a solution tailored to your family’s circumstances and one which benefits your children the most.  

If an agreement is not possible, you could use arbitration and ask an arbitrator to make the decision for you. You can also apply to the court and let a judge decide what should happen. In most cases, as part of the court application process, you will need to speak to a mediator to check whether mediation could be helpful in resolving your dispute.  

When applying to court it is usual to seek one or both of these orders: 

  • specific issue order – this is where the court is asked to deal with a specific question. For example, this could be which school or nursery a child attends.
  • prohibited steps order – this is an order which prevents someone with parental responsibility for a child from doing certain things. For example, this could be moving a child to a new school. 

Depending upon how old your child is, their “voice” can be heard in many of these different processes.  


Frequently Asked Questions

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