I have joint legal custody with my ex-spouse. After I moved away and we agreed on a new arrangement, my ex-spouse changed my child’s school without permission. What are my legal options?
I have not been retained as your attorney so I cannot give you legal advice. However, I can offer some general information that may help you.
As is the case with many family law issues, the answer to the question will heavily depend upon the facts of your case. In the state that I am licensed to practice in, Arkansas, which is the state where I practice, “legal custody” is defined as the ability and the right for a parent or parents to make all major life decisions for a child, such as educational, medical and religious.
In my state, if joint legal custody was granted to both parents, then both parents have to work together to make these decisions. Some custody orders will have clauses in it that have language similar to “if parents cannot reach an agreement on a decision, then the primary physical custodian will make the final decision.” If your order had language similar to this or if your state’s statute has built in language similar to this, then your ex-spouse may have been able to enroll your child into a school without your permission.
In Arkansas if this happened, then you could file a ‘Motion for Contempt.” In filing a motion for contempt, you will be making a written request to the court specifically stating the court order(s) your ex-spouse has violated—here, it would enrolling your child in school without your consult or permission. After your motion is filed, the court will then issue what is called a “show cause order” and a “show cause” hearing will be scheduled.
At the hearing, your ex-spouse will have the opportunity to tell the court why or why not she has violated the court’s orders. If she has violated the court’s orders, she can also present a good reason/cause to the court for doing so. It would then be up to the court as to what sanctions it orders.