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Divided over son’s schooling

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Q. My wife and I are going through a difficult divorce.  We have a 10-year-old with special needs and live in a town with an excellent school system where they have bent over backwards to help our son succeed.  He is in 5th grade and we are beginning to talk about the transition plan to middle school with his IEP team.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are divorcing is my wife’s need to use our son’s delays and needs as a means to get herself attention.  We have never been able to agree on how to best support him.  I absolutely believe our town is doing well by him.  He is happy, has friends and is learning.

My wife insists the town needs to do more and has been battling with them for the last two years about paying for an institutional-like setting private school.  I don’t agree with the school she wants to send him to and the town refuses to pay.  I think sending him into an institutionalized environment is wrong and will have a negative impact on him.  She just filed a motion asking the court to require me to allow her to send him to this private program next year.  Will a judge really make me do this?

A. In my experience, judges look at private school as a luxury and not a necessity.  There are exceptions to every rule, but generally, starting private school during the divorce is frowned upon without agreement of the parties even in these circumstances.

The issue here is that you do not agree that the school your wife proposes is the right environment for your son.  You should file an opposition to her motion citing the reasons for your disagreement with the proposed school up front.  Why do you think it is a bad environment?  Why has the town rejected paying for that particular school in the past?  Use all of these reasons as points in your oppositions.

It may be the court will want to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem with specialized knowledge in special education issues to investigate the two school districts and determine the best placement for your son based on his IEP and diagnosis.  If you feel you are losing the argument during the motion session, don’t be afraid to ask for this option.

Email questions to [email protected]

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