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What do schools need to know about family law?

By July 11, 2017No Comments

By Gianna Huesch

How does family law intersect with your child’s education?  This is a question which is set to be explored in an upcoming conference for teachers and principals called the Education Law Masterclass.

With a significant percentage of children today living in separated families and spending time in two homes, educators are confronted by a complex and challenging array of family law issues. And with both the best interest of their pupils and their school’s potential legal liability at stake, it’s increasingly important for educators to ensure they are fully across the issues.

Legal issues might arise from the time of enrolment, such as when a child is enrolled by one parent only– can the principal accept the enrolment without needing to be satisfied that both parents have jointly made the decision and are entitled to?

Ideally, your child’s school understands how the various state and federal laws relating to family issues operate and what the different orders and agreements mean. For example, what the difference is between a court order and a parenting plan, and what a school’s obligations are under the law whether or not court orders exist.

Separated families may be conflict-free, or they may involve high levels of conflict and/or family violence. Schools therefore need to know how to handle parents who may be extremely difficult, and how to manage various high conflict situations while remaining legally compliant.  A common scenario for schools is how to handle the situation when one parent seeks to volunteer at the school, but the other parent objects to them being there during ‘their time’.

Schools need to understand how to deal with family violence issues, such as correctly managing apprehended violence orders, intervention orders and child protection orders. In these cases it’s particularly important for schools to have orders kept on file and for staff to be made aware of the school’s responsibilities.  For example, if a parent is not permitted to approach a school under a court order, but does, this requires police to be called immediately.

Educators also need to understand issues around the paper trail–what documents are required to be collected from parents/pupils and held on file, and how to recognise if a court order is supplied which is not stamped and sealed and is therefore invalid.

Further, schools need to know the legal implications of sharing student information with third parties, such as when they require the authority of one parent to share reports or other information with the other parent. Schools may also be subpoenaed to give evidence to be used in the compilation of a family report, and may then need to obtain legal advice regarding privacy issues.

The top legal experts lined up to speak at the education law conference will also examine general education law issues which may relate to family law, including understanding the relationship between litigation and causation, and how to defend the school against threats of litigation by angry parents.

Schools may wish to stay completely out of family disputes, but in the interests of ensuring the wellbeing of students and reducing their own legal risk, they simply may not have a choice.

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Do you need assistance with a parenting matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct advice, please contact Alliance to arrange a free first conference.


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