Expat education and separated parents

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Choosing schools for your children when you no longer live together

All mothers have parental responsibility to their children as do most fathers (see footnote). This means that both parents have a right to be involved in every important decision regarding their child such as where the child will live and what school they will attend.  It is therefore important to involve the other parent when choosing a school, particularly if the school is in another country.

When an agreement cannot be reached the parents can try to resolve the issue through family mediation or, if they still cannot agree, they can ask the Court to decide this by making an application for a ‘Specific Issue Order’.  The Court will carefully consider both parents arguments and make a binding decision in the child’s best interests. Important disputes must be resolved quickly and not be allowed to drift as Court proceedings can take time and it may not be possible to get things sorted before the start of the new term.

Which court will decide?

The Courts in England and Wales will only be able to resolve disputes if the child is ‘habitually resident’ here.

Assessing habitual residence can be complex and will depend on the specific facts of each case and the intentions of the parents. Generally, someone’s habitual residence will not change if they travel to another country on a temporary basis for a specific purpose but things may change if, for example, the time abroad is extended.

Here are some examples:

  • If a family living in England send their child to boarding school in Germany, the child will almost certainly remain habitually resident in England and the English courts will determine any disputes between the parents about the children;
  • If the family were to relocate to Germany and send their child to a boarding school in England, the child will almost certainly then be habitually resident in Germany unless the move to Germany itself is temporary and the family have a settled intention to return to England after a short time.

Decision making when your child is at school

When a child attends school in another country there can be many decisions requiring a parent’s consent which can be difficult to obtain when the parents are abroad and more so if communications between separated parents are difficult.

Here are some examples:

  1. Giving consent for school trips;
  2. Giving consent for medical treatment;
  3. Authorising international travel home or for holidays.

Many schools with have their own policies regarding these issues.


  • Draft a general letter of consent signed by both parents to give authority for these issues which, is necessary, can be updated each academic year;
  • Consult an experienced solicitor as soon as a difficult problem arises early.


PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY (PR) (“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property” -s3 The Children Act 1989) is automatically given to the mother when a child is born to her. If a father is not married to the mother at the time of birth or his name is not registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate he will not have PR. He can acquire it by being named as the father on the birth certificate, entering into parental responsibility agreement with the mother or by court order.

By Emma Nash
The International Family Law Group LLP

The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Legal advice should always be sought for your specific circumstance.

Sponsored article from The International Family Law Group

The International Family Law Group LLP is a specialist law firm, based in London, looking after international and national families. iFLG handles a plethora of financial and forum matters linked to a relationship breakdown and matters relating to children (child relocation, abduction, adoption, surrogacy, contact and residence issues). As accredited international family law specialists iFLG regularly receives instructions from foreign lawyers concerning matters in England and Wales. iFLG is also regularly instructed by ICACU (Central Authority for England and Wales) and we also provide expert evidence abroad in family cases.


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