Education decisions and associated costs


#1

My separation agreement which was filed Durham County Court in 2004 says “The parents agree to make joint decisions in reference to the major areas of parenting, and specifically those decisions concern enrichment activities, discipline… and school enrollment…” Decisions will be discussed in an effort to resolve them by mutual agreement. Should either find a major issue in the area of education… they will consult with the parent coordinator. This is the only reference to education in our agreement.

Questions:

  1. Related, approximately 2 years after our divorce, my ex-wife pulled our kids out of public school and enrolled them in a private religious school. Note that before that, she moved them from a public school to a charter school to a private school and now a home school. At the time, she asked if I could pay half of the private school fees which I said I could not given my a) salary at that time and b) I was already paying $900 per month in child support and half of all other expenses as well as all health, dental and vision insurance for both children and I couldn’t afford additional costs for the private school. She opted to put them in the private school anyway. After 2 years, she took them out and put them back in public school in a neighboring county. Can she sue me NOW for expenses related to that private school education in 2007-2009?

  2. Related, recently my ex-wife decided to pull one of our children from high school and enroll him in an online school at home. I disagreed with this plan for a variety of reasons pertaining to his best interests, etc. Instead, I requested that he try this out for a summer first to see how it would work for him and to have an evaluation to determine the best option for his learning needs. She did neither and instead took him out of school. She is now asking for half of the costs for the online school. Am I obligated to pay given that her decision was made independently and with concern and disagreement on my part.


#2

Based on the language in the order, she cannot unilaterally make these education decisions. Your order provides that in the event of a disagreement, you will consult a parenting coordinator, which has not happened. Instead, it sounds like she simply ignores your opinion and moves forward how she sees fit. Because she has been unilaterally making a whole host of decisions, she is in breach of your agreement. If it is incorporated into a court order (which I assume, based on your statement that it is filed in Durham County), you should be able to file a motion for order to show cause and seek to have her held in contempt. To learn about this process, I would suggest you read the following article:

Breach And Enforcement of Separation Agreements

Additionally, you may want to consider filing a motion to modify custody based on her frequent changing of schools. I doubt a judge would find that moving the children from public, to charter, to private, to home school, to online school is in the best interests of the children. Even if you don’t want to have the custodial schedule modified, it may be worth revisiting the order to include specific provisions regarding the children’s education.


#3

No where in my separation agreement does it state anything regarding school costs or paying school costs. The only cost related item refers to dental/heath care costs…and splitting anything insurance doesn’t cover 50/50.

So even though she opted to put them in private school, can she come back and try to get me to pay half of private school fees…or online school fees? Can she sue me NOW for expenses related to that private school education in 2007-2009?


#4

If you are not obligated to pay for education costs per your agreement, then she would be unsuccessful in trying to sue you to recoup these costs.