Florida Court Discusses School Designations in Custody Cases

Parents who share custody of a child do not always agree as to what is best for their child with regard to education. If they cannot resolve a dispute over a child’s schooling, they may ask the court to intervene. The Florida courts always aim to rule in the best interest of the child that is the subject of a custody disagreement, but sometimes their aim falls short. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion in which the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling ordering that a child should attend public school. If you need help with a custody issue, it is advisable to confer with a Miami child custody lawyer to discuss your options.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the parties were married for seven years before the wife filed a petition for dissolution. The couple had a daughter during their marriage that was diagnosed with autism. They resolved most of their issues via a marital settlement agreement and had a hearing to resolve the remaining matters, like child support, parental responsibility, and their daughter’s schooling.

Allegedly, the wife had homeschooled the daughter, who was now eight years old, since she was four and wanted to continue homeschooling, while the father wanted her to attend public school. The trial court determined that it was in the daughter’s best interest to attend public school and issued an order to that effect. The mother appealed.

School Designations in Custody Cases

The court vacated the trial court ruling and remanded the matter for further proceedings after finding that there was no factual support for the decision. Under Florida law, an appellate court will review a trial court’s decision regarding a school designation for an abuse of discretion. In other words, if reasonable people could come to different conclusions regarding the propriety of the action, then it is not categorically unreasonable, and should not be disturbed.

The abuse of discretion standard of review nonetheless dictates that a trial court’s decision must be based on what is in the child’s best interests after weighing numerous statutory factors. While the court does not have to address each enumerated factor independently, it must, at a minimum, find that its school designation is in the child’s best interest and that finding must be in the final judgment or stated in the record.

In the subject case, although the trial court’s finding that public school was in the child’s best interest was in the final judgment, it lacked evidentiary support. Thus, the court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Meet with a Skilled Miami Attorney About Your Rights

Co-parents often disagree about how key parenting issues should be resolved and will seek input from the courts, but if a court fails to consider critical evidence, its decision may be overturned. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is smart to meet with an attorney to evaluate your rights. The skilled Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., have ample experience navigating the complexities of custody disputes, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We have an office in Aventura, and we regularly represent parties in family law matters in Miami. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.