Judge questions merit in home schooling in custody hearing

A legal matter that is currently playing out in a neighboring state might likely command some interest for a number of our readers in Georgia and elsewhere. The story’s subject touches upon a number of important family law points, including a judge’s role and discretionary powers in a dispute and the importance of judicial review. Additionally, too, the matter centrally underscores the vital need that an embattled litigant has for a knowledgeable and assertive family law attorney.

A quick summary of the facts reveals that home schooling was not even an issue initially in a child custody hearing in Florida. It subsequently became one, though, after a guardian ad litem in the case raised the subject and prompted the judge to act.

A media account describes the hearing as “routine,” with home education of the kids not being remotely perceived by either parent as an issue or subject for a court ruling. When the guardian summarily told the judge that she had a “gut reaction” that home schooling might not be in the children’s best interests, though, the judge seized on the assertion.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which subsequently filed an appellate brief in the matter, states that the judge began lecturing the mother on the adverse effects of home schooling. He reportedly emphasized the point that home school lacked an important socialization aspect and was not in the children’s best interests. Following the lecture, he ordered the children placed into public classes.

Again, it bears repeating that neither parent raised the issue of home schooling with the judge and that learning at home is a legal option under Florida law, provided a program meets stated prerequisites.

The matter is currently on appeal. The HSLDA’s brief states that the court’s “unsupported bias” could potentially engender harmful effects across the country if the ruling is not reversed. The group cites a number of salutary factors connected to home schooling.

The woman’s attorney says that her client was “unfairly demonized” during the hearing and voices hope that the appellate panel will reverse the lower court’s opinion.

Source: WND.com, “Family banned from homeschooling after divorce,” Bob Unruh, Dec. 2, 2013

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