It is often very difficult for children when their parents separate and it can have a negative impact on their emotional well-being at school. When disagreements between parents arise, all too often schools are stuck in the middle. In our January issue, we focused on what parental responsibility means and its impact on schools. This article will look at the types of Court Orders parents may show to schools and what they mean.
Court Orders are legally binding and must be complied with. It is therefore important that you ask for a copy of any Court Order if you are in doubt about what a parent is telling you. The three types of Court Orders that you may encounter are Child Arrangements Orders (“CAO”), Prohibited Steps Orders (“PSO”) and Specific Issue Orders (“SIO”).
A CAO will confirm with whom a child is to live (previously known as residence) and with whom a child is to spend time and the level of frequency (previously known as contact). The CAO may include provision for the child to live with both parents. Parents may have agreed which days they will be collecting the child from school and this may be set out in the CAO. If parents provide the school with a copy of the CAO, it is important to read this carefully and to keep a record on file for future reference should an issue arise. The usual data protection rules apply, of course.
A PSO restricts a parent from doing something in relation to their child, for example, preventing them from changing a child’s school, changing a child’s surname or in some circumstances preventing them from collecting a child from school. Often parents will inform a school that a child is not to be collected by the other parent. If the other parent has parental responsibility for the child, the school is unable to prevent this unless there is a Court Order. A school should not accept what a parent says at face value and should check with the parents if such a Court Order exists.
During the course of a child’s life, there are several decisions that need to be made: which school they should attend, the medical treatment that they should receive and whether they should relocate to another part of the country or even abroad. Where parents cannot agree these matters, the Court must decide what is in the child’s best interests and may grant a SIO. For example, the Court may order that a child must attend a specific school. If parents tell you that there is a Court Order in place relating to these issues, it is important to ask for a copy.