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What happens when two parents can't agree on their child's school?

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What happens when two parents cant agree on their childs school?

Education is important and provides children with intellectual and emotional skills that carry through to their adulthood.

But what happens when parents can’t agree on their child’s schooling arrangements?

In this article, Family Partner Andy Stynes looks at how disputes around a child’s school can be resolved and dealt with…

Do both parents have to agree to a school?

If a parent wishes to apply for/change their child’s school, they must first gain consent from anyone with parental responsibility.

Usually both parents will have parental responsibility, so they will both need to agree to the proposed school.

If only one person has parental responsibility, they will not need consent from anyone.

Related Article: Can my ex partner pick our child up from school without my permission?

Can a mother change a child's school without the father's consent?

Again, this depends on whether the father has parental responsibility.

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility, whereas fathers may not.

Situations where fathers may not have parental responsibility, and therefore won’t have a say in the schooling, include:

  • When the father isn’t married to the child’s mother (and wasn’t at the time of the child’s birth)
  • And/or when the father isn’t included on the birth certificate

Fathers and step-fathers can acquire parental responsibility. This is something we spoke about in detail in this article.

Related Article: What rights does an unmarried father have?

What happens if parents don't agree to school?

If two parents with parental responsibility can’t agree on a child’s schooling arrangements, there are a few options.

  • Discussions between parties
  • Mediation
  • Court involvement/order

I discuss these options in further detail below.

How do I stop my ex from changing my child's school?

Discussions between parties

Firstly, parents should aim to come to a mutual decision between themselves through discussion (where able).

This is a great way to nip schooling disputes in the bud before things escalate.


If initial discussions fail, parents can appoint an independent third-party to mediate.

A mediator will speak to both parties and aim to assist them in coming to an agreement.

We recommend that mediation should be considered and/or trialled, before court involvement is sought.

Court Involvement

If all else fails, parents can make an application to court to seek an order to be made.

The court orders which are most relevant to these cases are:

  • Specific Issue Orders
  • Prohibited Steps Orders

What is a specific issue order?

A Specific Issue Order is one that solves a specific issue or dispute regarding a child and their upbringing.

In this scenario, this type of order would be used by the Court to make a decision on which school the child should attend.

What is a Prohibited Steps Order?

A Prohibited Steps Order is one that prevents an individual from exercising their parental responsibility.

In this situation, this order would be used by the Court to prevent a parent exercising their responsibility in regard to a child’s education.

Both of these orders can be applied for at the same time, or during an application for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO).

Do I need a solicitor for a court order?

No, a solicitor isn’t needed to make an order; however, it is advised.

Applying for a Court order can be complicated and filled with legal jargon. Solicitors have experience in submitting these types of applications and can do all the work for you.

Plus, they’ll be there to field any questions that you may have regarding an order and ensure that you are fully aware of what you are applying for. Seek legal advice here.

How does a judge decide where a child goes to school UK?

First and foremost, the Court will consider the best interest of the child and any decision they make will aim to reflect that.

Parents should consider how the school or change in school will affect their child, and whether there will be a positive or negative impact. This will be a key factor for the Court in determining a judgement.

What can I do if my ex has changed my child’s school?

If a parent has already enrolled the child in school/changed school without consent from those with parental responsibility, you can still take action – it’s not too late.

Again, you can try discussions, mediation and then court involvement.

However, in situations like this where relations are perhaps less amicable, it may be advisable to attain a court order sooner.

Specialist Family Solicitors

Our bright team of Family Solicitors would be happy to field any questions that you may have and assist you in applying for an order.

If you would like our advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01202 499255 or fill out the form at the top of this page.

We offer a free initial chat for all new clients.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.