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The Truth About Homeschooling, Child Custody & Divorce

Thursday, 04 June 2015

When flashpoint issues that can pit one parent against another during a divorce or post-dissolution matter come up, there are few more explosive topics than educating the children. And when homeschooling is mentioned, the entire room, just for one minute, may even go quiet.

At its best, homeschooling can offer parents a focused and dedicated opportunity to allow children to thrive, grow and learn outside of a public school environment. Done wrong, homeschooling can lead to children who don’t get enough opportunities to interact with other children, spend too much time in front of computers, and may be taught by a parent who often means well but doesn’t have the tools to do it right.

Either way, the best way to confront the issue of how courts in Colorado address homeschooling is information, and probably a long conversation with a qualified family law attorney.

How does the Colorado legislature look at homeschooling?

In Colorado, the Colorado Revised Statutes allow parents, an immediate relative, or a licensed Colorado educator to educate a child outside of the traditional public school system in a homeschooling environment.

The distinction here is important. In Colorado, like many states, the only person able to “educate” children outside the system without the need for any teaching certificate, credential, seminar completion or other proof of educational capability is the “parent” or “designated adult relative.”

Other basic requirements that the State of Colorado makes for homeschooling parents who educate their own children or designate another relative to do the job are:

  • Notify the local school district of intent to home school where child would attend at least 14 days before the home school program begins;
  • Provide a diversity of education to the child that includes reading, writing, speaking, math, history, civics, literature, science and the United States Constitution.
  • Provide no less than 172 days of instruction per year, averaging 4 hours per day.
  • Keep records showing child’s attendance, testing and evaluation results.
  • Get the child tested at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th grade levels.
  • Compulsory education of a child, just as in public school, must occur between the ages of 6-16.

Why do some parents home school?

There are many reasons why parents choose to remove their kids from the mainstream public education system.
Some kids have very unique needs or skills that parents feel are not truly recognized and addressed through a larger classroom environment that might have 20 or more students fighting for the attention of one or two teachers.

This can happen sometimes for gifted children in a school district that lacks substantial resources. Gifted kids can get bored if they are not being challenged, and parents of these children want an educational environment that can foster and nurture special talents which their school just sometimes cannot provide.

Other kids may have behavioral problems which their local school could not manage. If a child’s behavior is regularly disruptive to the learning environment, or maybe even potentially harmful to other kids or educators, many school systems separate these kids into alternative schools.

To some parents, many these alterative schools aren’t given the resources they need to really look at the individual problems facing each child, and would rather try it themselves.

Other times, one or both parents feel that some of the “education” that children get in a public school, both in an out of the classroom, clashes with their own religious beliefs, and they want to more be able to guide the information and content that their children receive consistent with those beliefs.

My ex has custody, and just told me she plans to home school our kids – What do I do?

The best thing to do is probably contact your local Colorado Springs family law attorney, and don’t panic. That attorney will have the resources to help you discover why your ex plans to home school, what the focus of the child’s education will be, and if there is a behavioral, religious or other reason to remove the child from the public school system.

How do Colorado family court judges look at homeschooling?

On the one hand, both the Colorado Constitution and United States Constitution recognize that parents have important rights that allow them to control the upbringing, discipline and education of their children.

But those rights, like all things, are balanced by other factors. In the case of a divorce or parenting matter that comes up during or after a divorce, the Colorado family law courts have the authority to make decisions in cases where parents cannot agree if homeschooling is appropriate. In most cases, a court looks to have its decision guided by what in “the best interests of the child”, also factoring in which parent has primary custody of the child.

As you might imagine, these cases can get very involved and complicated. The judge may look to the parties to provide recommendations from child psychologists, educational specialists and even a guardian ad litem to help give the judge enough reliable information to make an informed decision.

That may be in addition to testimony from friends, relatives and acquaintances who know the parents and their ability to home school, and whether the child or children would benefit from home schooling.

Getting help in these cases can make the difference between success and failure

In any case, a qualified Colorado family law attorney can assist you in making this potentially daunting legal issue into something more manageable and understandable, helping you to navigate the process to obtain what your child truly needs, whatever that may be.

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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