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The effect of home schooling in child custody cases in Texas

As we begin to enter the last stretch of the school year before summer vacation, you may have run into some issue in your child’s school-life that has caused you to reflect upon whether or not it would be a good idea to have him or her homeschooled rather than attend the public or private school that he or she is currently enrolled in.

However, your perceptions and opinions on this subject may be the polar opposite of those of your ex-spouse. Coming together and working out a solution given differing opinions can be hard enough for married people but is even more daunting for divorced parents.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, has seen divorced parents disagree sharply on whether or not their child should be homeschooled. The question goes beyond whether or not the public or private schools in their area are “satisfactory” and hit on subjects relating to parenting philosophy and religion.

An example from our office related to home-schooling

A prior client of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, saw their child, who lived with her mother primarily, become enrolled in a homeschool program rather than the public school that she had been attending for the entire length academic career.

This gentleman came into our office to see first all whether his ex-wife had the ability to do this without his permission. Let’s walk through the discussion that he and I shared.

We pulled a copy of his Final Decree of Divorce off the Harris County District Clerk’s website and had a look at what it said. Parental rights and duties are laid out in a section in Final Decrees called Conservatorship. Every parent in Texas shares rights and duties with their child’s other parent. Whether or not the parents are married depends on how those rights and duties are allocated.

Specifically, issues related to educational, psychiatric, and medical decisions are outlined within your court order. Many divorced parents have to work together to make a change to their child’s educational path. If you are in this position, you would need to contact your ex-spouse to determine what they think about a particular change that you would like to see made for your child.

If your ex-spouse agrees that a change needs to be made, but you cannot agree on the specific change in question, then a third party is usually specified in the order who can play a tiebreaker.

Our former client’s order had he and his ex-wife sharing in most of the rights and duties of raising the child, but his wife almost entirely held educational rights. This got him to remember that he was traveling a lot for work at the time of their divorce and was not able to be a part of many of the discussions that would be necessary to have if he were to share equally in the rights and duties as to school-related matters.

His ex-wife did have the ability to pull his daughter out of public school and enroll her in a homeschool program. The fact of the matter was that his daughter was not doing well in public school, and he believed that his ex-wife did not take an interest in her education to the degree that he believed to be necessary.

He was now in a place where he could take a more active role in his daughter's education and sought a court order that would send his child back to public school.

What our client needed to show a court to send her back to public school

The quality of the homeschool education that our client’s daughter had been receiving was the real issue. She was attending an online school that allowed her to work at her own pace and supposedly offered one on one tutoring and teaching when and if she needed it in any particular subject.

Licensed, experienced educators taught the classes in Texas on top of that.

Our client was able to gain access to the curriculum for the program that his daughter was going through. It was not at all detailed compared to what even a basic public school curriculum would ordinarily feature. The program jumped around from subject to subject, and there did not seem to be a common thread on any of the subject matter in any given subject.

I’m not an expert on education whatsoever, but even I could tell this.

In attempting to modify his court order to provide him with an equal say in the educational life of his daughter, our client was able to get access to his daughter’s test scores from the online school that showed her doing even worse in the online school than she was in public school. It isn't easy to compare the educational merits of public and online schools in many situations, but test scores are one way to do so.

Further strengthening his case were the attendance records of the child. We were able to show a judge that his daughter was failing to turn in classwork regularly and not checking in for her lessons each day either.

The point we were attempting to argue, that the online environment allowed for missed classes with greater ease than a public school, was hammered home when our client’s ex-wife was called to testify.

She noted that the poor attendance record was due to her being unable to log her daughter into the online program for sometimes days on end. It came out that his ex-wife not only was not computer savvy but barely knew how to work a computer.

The judge was not impressed by the curriculum, the child’s attendance, or grades and saw little benefit to drastically changing the educational plan of a child who was already struggling in an environment that offered greater support systems.

Couple these factors with the reality that our client’s ex-wife enrolled their child in an online school when the mother herself did little research into the program. The judge ordered the child back into public school and allowed our client greater decision-making in academics.

Questions on homeschooling in the context of family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

As the popularity of homeschooling increases in Texas, it is important to know how this educational option fits your family’s circumstances. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have experience in representing clients dealing with these issues, and we would be honored to do the same for you and your family. To learn more about our office and the services we provide clients with, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.


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