If you have a child who receives special education services, or accommodations in school, you should specifically discuss with your attorney how your divorce decree will allocate decision-making rights when it comes to your child’s education. If you have ever sat in a special education meeting (often called an IEP meeting or an ARD meeting), you know just how many decisions go into designing your child’s education plan. While most divorce decrees contemplate who has the authority to make decisions concerning the child’s education, when a child receives special services or support in school, it is all the more important to specifically contemplate decision-making authority between the parents, the child, and the school district.
Why is it important to consider educational decision-making in your divorce decree? Under the IDEA, parents are given equal decision-making rights and authority. Unless a divorce decree specifically alters this presumption, even if you are divorced, your co-parent will retain equal rights. This is problematic in situations where both parties cannot agree on an educational decision. It is important to include language in your decree that considers what to do, and how a decision is made, if you and your co-parent cannot come to an agreement.
Additionally, you should include provisions as to how and when each co-parent must be notified of special education meetings and changes to the child’s plan. If a parent misses a single special education meeting, he or she might lack a great deal of information regarding the child. Consider including a provision that allows each parent to designate a competent adult to attend a special education meeting in their absence if he or she is unable to attend.
Finally, consider which parent may revoke consent for special education services. Under the IDEA, a parent may revoke his or her consent for services or an evaluation at any time. Unless the decree specifically contemplates this right, either parent will have the authority to unilaterally revoke consent.