Can My Ex Prevent Me from Homeschooling Our Children?

Question: In our divorce action I was awarded sole legal custody of our children. This year I’ve decided to home school our children. I have confirmed with my attorney that because I was awarded sole custody that the decision as to where the kids go to school or how the children are educated is my decision and my decision alone. Still, as a courtesy to my ex, I notified my ex of my plans to school our children this year.

After I notified my ex of my intentions to homeschool our children, my ex freaked out, told me I cannot homeschool our kids, told me that I’m not qualified to homeschool our children, told me that it was tantamount to child abuse and neglect, told me that homeschooling makes kids weird, and that it’s not in the best interest of our children, etc., etc. when my ex’s rant didn’t cause me to back down, my ex then of course threatened to take me back to court over this and said that the judge would never support me in my decision to homeschool our children and force me to enroll them in public school again.

I have a college degree. I am an intelligent person. I’ve gotten some basic homeschooling training and I purchased a reputable homeschooling guide, and I’ve confirmed with the proper state and local authorities that I am good to go for homeschooling our children this year. I’m working with other homeschooling parents to ensure that our kids will make friends and have opportunities to engage in sports and field trips. I’ve done everything I can think of to make homeschooling a positive experience. But can my ex stop me from homeschooling our kids and force me to enroll them in a public or private school instead?

Answer: while this is a hypothetical situation and thus not legal advice, here is what I see your options as being, and why:

If you had plunged headlong into homeschooling, without properly planning and about getting the necessary training and approval, then your ex’s position might have merit. If you’re not qualified to homeschool your children, if you’re not well organized and don’t ensure the children get the necessary minimal amount of instruction, then it clearly would be harmful to the children to be homeschooled instead of attending a public school or a reputable private school.  If your children need socialization, special services, or other things a traditional school provides better than you do, but are missing out on them as a result of homeschooling, that could be a factor that a court could cite as a basis for forcing you to enroll the children in a traditional school. But it appears that you have done your homework. You have made good plans. You are well prepared to homeschool your children. Consequently, it will be hard to identify or exploit chinks in your armor.

Homeschooling is a controversial topic. Homeschooling is legal, but there are many people, including court commissioners and judges, who may think that homeschooling is for weirdos or makes kids into weirdos. You may encounter an anti-homeschooling bias in your judge, which is no fault of yours, but it’s a problem you’ll need to be prepared to address, if your judge is biased. Regardless of whether your judge or commissioner is receptive to the idea of homeschooling, you’ll need to be prepared to defend your position and show that homeschooling will do the children no harm and ensure that at least their basic educational needs are met.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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