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Separation and divorce

Choosing a school after a divorce or separation: What you need to know

After a separation, you and your ex may need to choose a school for your child. You'll certainly have to do this if the child is about to start elementary school or high school. Who makes the decision and based on what? Here's some information to help you with this process.

Separated parents must choose the school together

Unless a court has decided otherwise, you and your ex must choose your child's school together. This is the case regardless of the custody arrangement. You must therefore discuss the matter with your ex and come to an agreement.

What do you have to consider?

You and your ex must make this decision based on the best interests of your child. Here are some factors to be considered in arriving at your decision.

Some schools may be better than others in meeting your child's needs. A particular academic program or certain extra resources may help your child. For example, your child may need a specialized school for children with learning disabilities or may benefit from a school with a strong science or sports-studies program.

The child's own wishes may also be taken into account. The older the child, the more importance these wishes should be given.

Did you know?

Courts have ruled that the wishes of a child over 12 must be given considerable importance in any decision affecting them. The child's level of maturity and ability to express their wishes, as well as the seriousness of their concerns, will be taken into account.

You and your ex can take the school's location into account. For example, you can check if:

  • The school is located at a reasonable distance from where each of you lives.
  • Transportation is available, for example, a school bus or a city bus that would take your child to the school.

In arriving at your decision, you can also consider any costs involved (e.g., tuition fees, cost of uniforms, etc.).

Public school is free in Quebec. However, you may prefer to enroll your child in a private school, where tuition fees apply.

A private school may suit the needs of your child well but may not be appropriate for your financial situation. School fees should not put you in a situation that would compromise your ability to meet your child’s other needs (e.g., food, clothing or housing).

Costs of a private school: who pays what?

In general, when parents agree that their child will attend a private school, costs are shared between the parents in proportion to their respective incomes.

For example: 
Jamie and Robin would like to enroll their child in a private school that costs $5,000 per year. Jamie earns $60,000 per year, and Robin earns $40,000 per year, for a total annual income of $100,000*.

To determine how much each parent must contribute:

1

We must first calculate what proportion of the total income each parent's income represents.

Jamie’s part: ($60,000 ÷ $100,000) x 100 = 60%

Robin’s part: ($40,000 ÷ $100,000) x 100 = 40%

2

Once these percentages have been calculated, they must be applied to the cost of the private school.

Jamie’s contribution: 60% x $5,000 = $3,000

Robin’s contribution: 40% x $5,000 = $2,000

* This is a simplified example of income determination.

What if parents can't agree?

If you and your ex can't agree on the choice of a school, you can use the services of a mediator to help you arrive at an agreement. Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process. You can refuse to participate, and you can end the process at any time.

The Quebec government's mediation program can provide you with a specific number of hours of free mediation.

For more information:

When Mediation Is Free for Couples (Éducaloi)

When no agreement is possible, you can ask the Superior Court to rule upon the matter.

To reach a decision, the judge will evaluate what is in the best interests of your child, taking into account many factors, including the child's needs, the locations of the schools, and school costs, if applicable.

To do this, you must send an "Application with Respect to the Choice of School" to your ex and file a copy in the Superior Court. If divorce proceedings are ongoing, you can add this to other requests in your divorce file. If you and your ex were de facto partners, you can add this to other requests concerning your child (e.g., custody and child support payments).

Did you know?

Since March 2021, the Divorce Act uses the term "parenting time", instead of "custody" and "access rights", to describe the time a child spends with each parent. You may therefore find this new expression in your divorce proceedings and court judgements.

However, the terms "custody" and "access" will continue to be used for de facto partners.

Resources

Are you looking for a lawyer, a psychologist, a notary, or a mediator?

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Warning

The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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