Children's Schooling - Who Gets To Choose?


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Children's Schooling - Who Gets To Choose?

Children’s Schooling – Who gets to choose?

In a recent case in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, a Mother made an application that her eldest child continue with her Catholic schooling when she commenced secondary education.

There were three children of the parties, aged 12, 10 and 6. All three children were attending a Catholic primary school.

The Father opposed the Mother’s application, and sought that the eldest child attended a public state school for her secondary education. It was the Father’s position that he could not afford to contribute to the cost of a private secondary education for his children and as such, all the children should attend a government school.

The Mother agreed to fund the cost of private education but the Father still refused to consent to the eldest child attending a private school for her secondary education.

The Father’s evidence was:

“I want the best education possible for our daughters and so do not see any benefit of X having to travel out of her local area, to a school four suburbs away from her home, to a school where she will be separated from her local community and peer groups, when there is an excellent school in M which is close by, affordable and appropriate for X and her sisters”.

It was the Father’s evidence that the public school at M was the best school in the area and that was where the children should attend.

The Court made a determination with the best interests of the children as the primary consideration.

The Court made reference to the eldest child’s meaningful relationship with both parents, although the relationship with her Father was strained given the schooling issue. The child had expressed a vey strong view that she wished to continue with her education in the Catholic Education System.

The Father’s evidence that he was unable to contribute to the fees was discounted as the Mother had agreed to fund the fees.

The Court found that it was in the best interests of the eldest child that she attends the Catholic school. Reasons were:-

  1. The child’s strongly stated wishes;
  2. The child has a genuine and real wish to remain within the Catholic School System;
  3. There was psychological evidence that the transition from primary to secondary school will be easier and there is evidence that the child will embrace the new school;
  4. The state school is more conveniently located to where the parties reside but the Catholic school is not a significant distance away;
  5. The Father was concerned that the child would be isolated from her friends as the Catholic school is further away. The Court was satisfied that this was not the case as it was not uncommon for children to maintain friendships over greater distances;
  6. Court was satisfied that both schools would meet the needs of the children; and
  7. The Court was satisfied that the Mother could meet the fees.

An Order was made that it was in the best interests of the eldest child to pursue her education in the Catholic system.