Private School and Divorce

Posted by: Teresa Reade

The issue of education is one that concerns many parents who wish to provide their children with as much, or more, then they had during their lifetime. Many families hope to provide their children with a top rate private education, and many plan financially for that even before the children are born. However, when families separate, there often remain questions about whether a private education will be possible, or if it will be continued after the separation and divorce. Generally, the issue of education is one of legal custody and the court would prefer the parents make the decision jointly as they know what is in the child's best interest. For many families, the issue is less about whether to utilize private school, and more about how to pay for the school.

For families whose children are already attending a private school when the family separates, particularly for older children, the court tend to try to preserve the status quo and continue the child's education where previously attending. As a general statement, it is important for children to keep continuity in as much of their life as possible when such big changes are occurring in the home. The issue of how the private school is paid for is much more complicated. The court will consider many factors such as costs of education, income of the parties, historical contribution (income earner or domestic), level of child or spousal support, and ability to pay after a support order is made.

For families whose children were not enrolled in private school prior to the separation, but seeks to make that change or as an initial enrollment, the issue is more complicated. First, the court would consider whether the change is in the best interest of the child by considering such facts as the individual attributes or talents of the child, how the school can foster those attributes or talents, if there were issues or conflicts at the prior school, what future opportunities this change may offer, and the reasons of the objecting parent. The court must also consider how the parties will pay for the school, considering the same factors set forth above. The court may also consider more heavily the financial objections of on party if this a post-divorce modification.