Back to school? « McAlister Family Law


Back to school?

Jonathan Casey


Some schools are opening up their classrooms again, some are not, but as the lockdown continues to ease, we are hearing from parents about strong disagreements as to the best way forward.

 If parents cannot agree arrangements for their child or children, an application can be made to the court for a remedy. Parents can also apply to court in relation to a Specific Issue, and the court can address the issue of whether or not a child should return to school during the pandemic.

The court application

A Specific Issue Order is an order from the family court to determine a specific question which has arisen in connection with any aspect of the parties' parental responsibility for a child, and a Prohibited Steps Order is something that prevents a parent from making a decision about the child’s upbringing, such as their education. The court will take into account the parents’ opinions and the best interest of the children and make a decision. The children’s educational development, efficient home -schooling techniques and underlying health issues in the family may all be considered by the court when deciding the issue, but most cases will be decided on its own merits.

The court’s guidance to promote an agreement

Before making an application to the court, parents should try and agree arrangements as much as they possibly can. During this pandemic, it is important to consider the family court’s guidance on compliance with Family Court orders and arrangements for children. (We have provided a link below for the guidance)

This court guidance promotes as much communication as possible between the parties to enable parents to consider the children’s best interests. Therefore, an application to court should only be made if there is no hope of an agreement regarding the children’s schooling and very much as a last resort.

The court’s ability to hear an urgent specific issue application

Unfortunately, during the current situation there is little time for the courts to deal with these issues; even if the case is an urgent one, there is no guarantee that the court will be able to hear the case before the children are due to go back to school. This may leave parents in limbo and wondering what to do. Mediation can be an option to see if an agreement can be reached, but both parents must agree to that route, so seeking legal advice may assist them as they attempt to reach that agreement.

If you are unsure about what to do during the pandemic in relation to a specific issue or arrangements for children, we would advise you to seek specialist independent legal advice from an experienced family lawyer.


If you are affected by any of the issues outlined here, please do get in touch today. We are here to help. 

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