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Divorced Parents in Orlando Are Facing Issues on Whether or Not to Send Kids Back to School
Parents in Orlando and throughout Florida are faced with the decision whether they feel safe sending their children back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not an easy decision for any parent. However, when the parents are divorced, it can complicate an already tense and emotional decision.
Orlando Schools Reopening Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Orange County Public Schools have a reopening plan to allow students to return to school. The reopening plan includes options for face-to-face learning as well as virtual learning. The county also offers an Innovative OCPS LaunchED@Home Model for parents who are not comfortable sending their children to school yet but hope to return students to school in the future.
Even though schools reopened in Orlando, it does not mean that all parents are comfortable sending their children back to school. COVID-19 numbers in Florida continue to increase. Many parents struggle with the decision of whether to send their children for in-person learning or utilize one of the virtual opens for school.
Divorced Parents May Not Agree on Returning to School
Married couples may disagree on whether to send their child back to school. They may have debated the topic at great length. However, they had to come to a decision together.
For divorced parents, the problem can be more complicated. If divorced parents cannot agree on whether to send their children back to school, who gets to make the final decision?
If possible, it is best for the family if the parents can work together to decide how to handle the current school year. Regardless of whether the child returns to school for in-person learning or stays at home to attend school virtually, both parents need to be active in their child’s education.
Working together to resolve the issues is generally better than taking the matter before a judge to decide. A co-parenting therapist can help avoid court for some parents.
Look to the Parenting Plan for the Solution
Traditionally, the parent who had legal custody of the child made all decisions related to the child’s education. Therefore, if a parent had legal custody, he or she could decide if the child returned to school for in-person learning. If parents shared legal custody, the matter became more difficult because both parents had an equal say in the matter.
Florida custody laws no longer use the terms legal custody and physical custody. The courts now define custody in terms of time-sharing and parental responsibility. Parental responsibility refers to the shared responsibility that both parents have for raising their children.
A parent that is the primary caregiver makes the day-to-day decisions for the child. However, long-term decisions or decisions that could impact the child’s welfare are discussed by the parents under a shared responsibility agreement. The parents need to work together to resolve the issue.
The courts in Florida prefer to use shared responsibility for child custody. Most children benefit from having both parents remain active in their lives. Shared responsibility encourages that behavior.
However, there are instances in which shared responsibility is not in the child’s best interest. In those cases, a judge may grant one parent sole responsibility for making decisions related to the child’s welfare.
Therefore, if your parenting agreement shares responsibility, both of you must agree on whether your child returns to school or remains at home for school. If one parent has sole responsibility, that parent can decide if the child returns to school for in-person learning.
Should I See a Child Custody Lawyer?
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree about whether your child should return to school this year, you can talk to a divorce lawyer about parental rights in Florida.
Even if your parenting plan grants sole parenting responsibility to your child’s other parent, your concerns about returning to school during a COVID-19 pandemic are valid. There could be circumstances that make it dangerous for your child to return to school. For example, if your child has an underlying health problem, it could be dangerous for your child to return for in-person learning.
Whenever parents are concerned about their child’s welfare, it can be beneficial to talk to an attorney. If your child’s other parent is acting in contradiction to the best interest of your child, you may need the court to intervene. An experienced child custody lawyer can review the situation and explain your options.
Each case is unique. Judges base their decision on the specific facts in a case and the child’s best interest. The pandemic may not be sufficient cause to change a parenting plan, but it is worthwhile to weigh your options with the help of a family law attorney.