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Mar 4 2022

Get ready for kindergarten—now!

If you’ve got a four or five-year-old child, you’re thinking about kindergarten. Perhaps your child is of the maturity that it’s appropriate that he or she start kindergarten in the fall. That is more than six months away. Nonetheless, you need to be thinking about it now.

There are many parents who went through a divorce several years ago. Or perhaps they were never married, but they sorted out the initial arrangements of custody and parenting time after the child was born. Either way, they share custody pursuant to an order that was issued several years ago, long before kindergarten was on the horizon.

It’s not uncommon for court orders that are issued when a child is not even one or even merely in his or her second year to not consider school choices. A lot of times those court orders don’t even lay out what the parenting time is beyond the first few years because developmentally, it’s unclear as to whether it should be equal time between both parents or even what the lives and locations of the parents are going to be like.

Nonetheless, now is the time to be thinking about kindergarten. You’re probably already thinking about kindergarten testing to determine whether it’s appropriate for the child to start. Your local school district is soon to be announcing the availability of these tests. If you and your child’s other parent live in the same school district and there’s only one elementary school, the rest of this blog post is irrelevant to you. However, if there’s more than one elementary school in your school district, this starts getting interesting. If you and the other parent live in two different school districts and you share equal time, you’re going to be very interested in the rest of this blog post.

School choice is important. When we talk about joint legal custody shared between two parents, we talk about decision-making for the most important matters involving the child’s life. The three statutory areas that are recognized are medical decisions, religious upbringing, and education. It’s so important that it’s listed in the statute as decisions for parents to make jointly when they share joint legal custody.

Choosing the right school district can make a world of difference regarding your child’s socialization and emotional balance. The teachers, the principals, and the school district funding are going to directly influence the quality of the education your child receives. Whether that’s a concern for preparation for college or being successful in life, you want to make sure that your child is enrolled in the right school district so that they can become the people you want them to become.

But in split households, there’s oftentimes more on the line. If there’s a notable geographic divide between the school districts, you may very well be facing a parenting time change where one parent’s going to end up with the children Monday through Friday or Sunday through Thursday every week, throwing off the equal division of the children’s overnights.

In seeking the help of an MN family law attorney, there are two primary phases and both take time. First, if there’s an earnest disagreement between two parents, the court is going to expect us to attempt to mediate the dispute to come up with a resolution without having to involve public resources and the court’s time. Not only does it take time to schedule that, but we also have to prepare. If that’s unsuccessful, we can then proceed to court to have the judge make a decision. That motion needs to be filed 21 days in advance, but much more time is required to even prepare those motions. However, the motion prep time is not usually a big deal because it’s not uncommon that it takes us six weeks, eight weeks, or more to get a hearing date. Hence, the six months you’ve got until school starts is all of a sudden starting to look very cramped.

The issues involving school choice are not simple. This is not like some child support formula where we just have to take six dollar amounts, enter them into the calculator and it tells us where your child’s going to school. In fact, the statutes do not outline specific factors or circumstances that need to be taken into account. Rather, it’s imperative that you have an attorney that has a great deal of experience with school choice concerns. You want legal counsel that is sensitive to this that they’re thinking about it six months in advance and wants to use their experience as part of their plan to accomplish their client’s goals. Hence, whether you share children because of a prior divorce or custody establishment, it’s essential that we start analyzing the circumstances regarding your four or five-year-old child, the joint legal custody provisions of your court order, your local elementary schools, and their kindergarten programs, the overall quality of the teachers and programming within the school district, the timeline for kindergarten testing and enrollment, and a dozen other factors so that we can make your case and set up your child’s schooling for what very well maybe the rest of their childhood.

For a consultation with a compassionate and experienced family law attorney in Minnesota, contact Atticus Family Law today.

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