Children all across Medicine Hat returned to school earlier this month, including children from both intact and separated or divorced families. If you are a parent who disagrees with your child’s other parent about parenting, child support and extracurricular activities, it is likely no surprise to discover that you disagree about your children’s schooling as well. Lawyers often face questions about what rights each parent has when it comes to their children’s schooling.
The Family Law Act, which is Alberta provincial legislation, says in section 21 that a Guardian of a child may exercise a number of different powers, including the power to make decisions about the child’s education and participation in extracurricular school activities and to receive from third parties education information that may significantly affect the child. The Guardian is able to exercise these powers unless they are stopped from doing so by law, including a Parenting Order. As a result, unless there is a Parenting Order which prevents a Guardian from making these decisions or from receiving this information, both of the parents (unless they do not qualify as a Guardian under the Act) have the right to receive the information and participate in the decision making regarding schooling and extracurricular school activities. Orders made specifically under the Family Law Act in Medicine Hat will often outline which of the parents has the ability to exercise these powers.
Under section 16(5) of the Divorce Act, which is Federal legislation, a parent who is granted access to a child of the marriage has the right to make inquiries and to receive information about the education of the child. A parent who has custody of a child has the right to make decisions regarding that child. Therefore, both parents have the right to receive information about children’s education, and the decision-making power belongs to the parent who has custody (or to both parents if they have joint custody).
The right to receive information about their child’s education, includes things like where the child is registered for school, what classes is the child taking, who are the teachers and what the marks are. Each parent who is entitled to this information should make arrangements to obtain that information directly from the school. It is not the other parent’s responsibility to provide that information. Schools in Medicine Hat are great about accommodating parents to provide duplicate copies of report cards and make sure that both parents have access to children’s marks and teachers. At the same time, it is important to realize that this is making extra work for teachers and to treat them with the appropriate respect.
Parents are also able to take advantage of the fact that so much information is now available online. Many school newsletters now arrive by email instead of in paper form. School schedules (including days the children are out of school) are online. Most junior high and high schools have marks available to parents through online programs. Take advantage of these opportunities and ensure that you are participating in your child’s education to the best of your ability.