Disputes about schooling, medical care and religion

If you share parental responsibility for your child with someone else, you should agree about major decisions like what school they attend, whether they should have a particular medical treatment or whether they should be raised in a particular religion or participate in a religious ritual or ceremony.

If a dispute arises, you may be able to reach an agreement without going to court, either between yourselves or with the help of a solicitor or a mediator. If not, then you can apply to the family court for a specific issue or prohibited steps order.  Find out more about how the court process works.

If the application concerns a disagreement about which school your child should attend, then an application should always be made in good time before the start of any school year so that the court has sufficient time to consider the application.

How does the court reach a decision?

The court will encourage you to reach an agreement, but if you can't it will ultimately decide what is in your child's best interests.  To help the court work this through, it will consider the 'welfare checklist'.  Any or all of the following factors can be given whatever weight the court thinks is appropriate:

  • the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding)
  • the child's physical, emotional and educational needs
  • the likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances
  • the child's age, sex, background and any other characteristics which the court considers relevant
  • any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • how capable each of the child's parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs
  • the range of powers available to the court.

The court has a duty to consider whether making an order will benefit the child - the 'no order principle' says that in most circumstances it is better to get parents to agree rather than to impose an order on them.

Resolving children disputes in modern families

Particular issues can arise in situations where children are not being raised in traditional families.  Find out more about:

Disputes between same-sex parents

Known donor and co-parenting disputes

Disputes between parents through surrogacy who have separated

Have we answered your question? Would you like advice on your personal circumstances?

Email us at hello@ngalaw.co.uk or call on 020 3701 5915 and we will explain how we can help.