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Why schools need policy on dealing with parental separation

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1536240727559{margin-bottom: 0px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;background: #ffffff url(https://www.orpenfranks.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/touch-bg.jpg?id=1102) !important;background-position: 0 0 !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;}” el_class=”touch-mobile”][vc_column css=”.vc_custom_1536239598444{margin-bottom: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}” offset=”vc_hidden-lg vc_hidden-md vc_hidden-sm”][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”cs-14″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_id=”slider-bottom” css=”.vc_custom_1574431739994{padding-top: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}” el_class=”content-area brand-middle”][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”6726″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]The recent Equality Tribunal award of €4,000 against an Irish school for ‘discriminatory’ treatment of a separated father should act as a wake-up call for all schools, when it comes to dealing with parental separation and divorce.

In the case successfully taken to the Equality Tribunal (read more here),  the separated father who took the case claimed that the school had sided with his estranged wife in withholding information from him about their daughter.  The Equality Officer said she was satisfied that the complainant was “treated differently than other parents in the circumstance.”

How Schools Need to Respond to Separation

For schools, they need to respond to this case for a number of reasons and in a number of ways:

  • Managing how they deal with parental separation and in particular how they communicate with parents is a growing problem which they may encounter on a daily basis
  • Issues with separated parents can begin from the time an application to the school is first made, and go right through to information notices, notes home, reports and parent teacher meetings.
  • In difficult conflict situations even things like school pick-ups can be fraught with difficulty, and there needs to be clarity around this so that the child concerned is not confronted with conflict between parents at the gate or equally at school events.
  • We would recommend each school has a written policy dealing with the requirements of parents in separation situations , and this policy should cover as many eventualities as possible. Advance notice of the policy to parents is essential!

How Separated Parents Should Deal with Schools

For parents, it is hard enough going through separation or divorce so please take note of the following key points:

  • Difficulty can arise for the parent who does not have custody or primary care, and who may not be receiving information on school affairs from the other parent or from the school
  • Both parents in a married couple have a legal entitlement to consultation and information about their child’s education
  • If a couple are not married, then it is advisable for both partners to have at least joint guardianship so they have similar legal entitlements to consultation and information about your child’s education
  • If school information is not forthcoming from your ex-partner, then have a meeting with the school principal to raise your concerns and to ascertain their policies.  Some schools have information apps which give all parents the same information once logged in.

Most importantly and positively, however, the Equality Tribunal decision recognises the importance of the role played by the parent who is not the primary caregiver, in cases of joint custody. As this is normally the father, the case represents a huge step forward in the rights of separated fathers. Finally, it must be acknowledged that the ruling may not be relevant in cases where access to children has been restricted by court rulings.

If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above, please call Alan Finnerty on 01 637 6200. Or you can email him at alan.finnerty@orpenfranks.ie


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