Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

What is a Florida family court to do when parents do not agree on private versus public school education for their children? As with most decisions involving minor children, the court must use the "best interest" standard to make a ruling. The best interest of the children is paramount to what is fair to either parent. We see how an appellate court handled this issue in the case Lane v. Lane, 3D17-2538 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018). 

The parties' children attended public school until the father approached the mother about enrolling the children in a private school which he believed provided better academic and extracurricular activities for the children. The father offered to be solely responsible for the private school tuition. Because the mother would not meaningfully confer with the father on the issue of private school enrollment, the father filed a motion to authorize him to enroll the children. The mother countered with a motion for contempt, alleging the father took one of the children to the private school to be tested for enrollment eligibility without her consent. 

The trial court sided with the father and entered an order allowing him to enroll the children in the private school. The order also mandated that the mother fully cooperate in the enrollment process. Among other arguments, the mother argued that the order infringed upon her religious beliefs in that she did not want her children engrossed in Christian religion.

The appellate court rejected this argument, noting the hearing transcript indicated the mother was not opposed to the private school for religious reasons, but instead for educational reasons. Furthermore, the appellate court upheld the trial court's denial of the mother's motion for contempt, holding "The mother fails to cite to any case law standing for the proposition that it is a violation of shared parental responsibility to take a child for academic testing. Moreover, the father did not withdraw P.L. from his school and admit him to another; he simply took P.L. for an admission assessment test [. . .] 'Under Florida law, '[t]here is nothing that requires a trial court to hold a person in contempt' [. . .]"

Co-parenting can be made more complicated when parents fundamentally disagree as to religious upbringing and school choice. The solution is rarely straightforward, and for that reason it is important to consult with a Miami child custody lawyer to understand what specific parts of your position should be highlighted in the presentation of your case to the court.