Raising children together is hard enough. However, when couples split, the issues become more complicated. Among the decisions may become changing your children’s school after a divorce.
The best interests of the children remain paramount in determining what happens with them. In fact, NJSA 9:2-4a states that when it comes to legal matters, the best interest of the child needs to be the primary consideration.
Divorce causes disruption in children’s lives. As a parent, you may recognize the importance of maintaining some sense of order. However, the list often starts with Mommy and Daddy living separately.
In most situations, it continues with children spending time with each parent separately. The back and forth often represents quite an upheaval. Custody agreements and parenting times can sometimes result in giving up sports practice or just regular playdates.
And, then, there is school itself. As much as it would be nice for minor children to experience continuity in their education, that’s not always possible. Mom or Dad may decide they will remain in New Jersey but want to relocate out of town.
Sound familiar? A recent New Jersey Appellate Court unpublished decision considers this very scenario. Ultimately, the issue became moot because of timing issues. However, you may relate to the reasons the case went to court for intervention.
Post-Judgment Case on Changing Children’s School
The preliminary notes to the court’s legal opinion in Torcasio v. Torcasio state that it “shall not constitute precedent or be binding upon any court.” Therefore, the ruling only applies to the named parties.
The Torcasios married in 2005 and had three children together. Although there is no indication whether the change in surnames is due to return to a maiden name or remarriage, Jennifer Torcasio is now known as Jennifer Jennings.
Both parents worked in the Monroe Township school district at the time of their eleven-day divorce trial, which ended in April of 2017. The couple’s twin boys and a third son all attended classes within the same school system.
During the divorce hearing, Jennifer informed the court she wanted to relocate to Marlton. The location is approximately 35 minutes away from Monroe Township, which is also known as Williamstown. Jennifer wanted to remove the children from their current school district. However, Daniel Torcasio, the children’s father expressed his objections concerning changing the children’s school.
The court awarded the parents “joint and legal custody.” For the school year starting in 2017 and ending in 2018, the judge allowed Jennifer to decide where the children would go to school. Meanwhile, the selection came with limitations.
The court stated that Jennifer could choose to live in Marlton. However, the children needed to attend school in a town contiguous to Monroe Township. This would exclude enrolling the three boys in Marlton schools.
More on the Ruling Pertaining to Changing Schools
In continuing her ruling, the judge gave permission for Jennifer to reside in a town bordering on Monroe Township. However, Jennifer would first need to provide Daniel with at least thirty days’ notice of her move and intentions to change the children’s school.
Subsequent to the final divorce decree, Jennifer motioned the court as she wanted to enroll the children in a parochial school in Berlin, in Camden County. Daniel objected.
Upon review, the judge found that Berlin is not contiguous to Monroe Township. Additionally, the court could not require the children to attend parochial school unless both parents consented. The mother’s request was therefore denied.
In the meantime, Daniel requested that the court allow the children to continue their education in Monroe Township for the 2017-2018 school year. The judge expressed concerns about Jennifer’s delay in choosing a school – particularly one in a municipality bordering on Monroe Township.
Since it did not appear contrary to the children’s best interests for them to continue in their current school district, the court granted their father’s motion. In the meantime, Jennifer was given a deadline to choose a new school for 2018-2019 within the specified location guidelines.
Notably, there was confusion regarding the entry of the original divorce order, which was subsequently amended. In the meantime, the children remain in the Monroe Township school district. The twin will age out of their school before the next school year.
The Appellate Division determined that issues regarding school selection for 2018-2019 were moot. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal. However, the final remarks of the court are quite telling.
Unless the parties can put their differences aside, there’s a good chance they’ll be back in Family Court to ask for judicial intervention.
Even after your divorce is finalized, you may find dealing with your child’s other parent difficult. At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we assist mothers and fathers come to workable solutions. Contact us for legal advice concerning your particular situation.