Can I Homeschool My Child in Texas if My Ex Doesn’t Agree?
School systems across the United States have been trying to navigate the legal and practical issues related to reopening schools this fall. As one of the nation’s more recent hot spots, the State of Texas is certainly no exception. While school officials face off with government officials over when and how to reopen schools, parents are having to decide whether to send their children back to traditional schools at all. Texas allows parents to homeschool their children; however, who gets to make that decision if the parents are divorced? Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd discusses the homeschooling option for divorced parents.
The Return to School
There is no doubt that the year 2020 will go down in the history books as the year of the pandemic. Among the many things that we have had to adjust to this year is the idea that sending our children to school may not be safe. Officials have been faced with a daunting task – keep students, teachers, and staff safe while also ensuring that students don’t fall behind academically. Some school systems will only offer virtual classes this fall. Others have delayed the return to classes while still others have created hybrid models that decrease the number of students in the schools at any given time. For parents who are not comfortable sending their children back to traditional school in Texas this fall, homeschooling is an option. For divorced parents, however, there is another potential obstacle to the decision-making process. If both parents do not agree to homeschool a child, who gets to make the decision?
Homeschool vs. Virtual School
Like most states, Texas already has an established virtual school option, the Texas Virtual School Network, for eligible students in grades 3-12. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individual school systems have also created virtual learning options for returning students. In addition, Texas has one of the most liberal, homeschool friendly, laws in the nation. The only requirements for homeschooling a child in Texas are as follows:
The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and good citizenship.
When Parents Disagree
If you are the parent of a school-aged child, you have undoubtedly spent some time contemplating the return to school dilemma. If you have reached the conclusion that you do not want your child to go back to in-person learning, but your child’s other parent does not agree with that decision, you need to understand where you stand legally. For that, you need to know what your final divorce decree says about conservatorship and decision-making authority. If your divorce was recent, one parent was most likely granted final decision-making authority in the event both parents do not agree on a major decision, such as how to educate the child. If you have that authority, you should have the right to decide on homeschooling. If your child’s other parent was given that authority, you are not in a position to prevent the decision to homeschool absent a return to court. Sometimes, however, the final decree fails to address final decision-making authority or uses language that grants both parents the right to make major decisions (including educational decisions). In that case, both parents effectively have to agree or return to court and let a judge make the decision. Keep in mind that unless you have a court order that clearly gives you the sole authority to make decisions regarding your child’s education, the school system cannot intervene.
If your child’s other parent does not agree with your decision to homeschool your child this fall, you need to be certain you are on solid legal footing if you decide not to send your child back to traditional school. Having an experienced divorce attorney review your divorce decree is the only way to know with certainty whether you have the authority to make the homeschooling decision by yourself or must return to court to litigate the issue.
Contact a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney
If you are contemplating homeschool because of the COVID-19 pandemic, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to discuss your legal situation to schedule your appointment today.