A father who opposed sharing the cost of a private school was not required to share the expense of tuition.Most of the time, divorced or separated parents agree that their children should attend a public or private school.
In some cases, one parent might want to send the child to private school while the other is satisfied with the public school. The parent who has been given the final say about school attendance can choose the school. But what happens when the decision-making parent enrols the child in a private school and demands that the other parent pay the tuition? That question recently came before Judge Terence McGuire of the Federal Circuit Court.
Parents known in court documents as the Barstows could not agree whether their children, ages 6 and 11, should attend public or private school. The mother wanted the children to attend an elite private school at a cost of $30,000 per year for each child. She asked the court to order the father to pay half that tuition.
The father told the court that he was a strong supporter of public schools and was philosophically opposed to paying for an education that the government was obliged to provide for free. The father said he would not stand in the mother’s way if she wanted to send the children to private school, but objected to sharing the cost.
The Barstows are in their early 40s. Each makes about $200,000 a year. The children live with the mother, who employs a nanny to provide childcare when she is working.
The mother valued private education. While the father said he valued public education, the mother claimed that the father’s values were “purely financially driven.”
Regardless of the underlying motivation for the father’s values, the judge decided that he did not want to force the father to do something that was against his principles. In addition, the judge did not want to decide whether a public or private education would be better for the children when there was no evidence before the court as to which educational system would be in the children’s best interests.
Since the father did not dispute the mother’s decision to send the children to private school, the judge ruled that she would be allowed to do so, but only if she paid the tuition. Since there was no evidence that the children would be better served by a private school than a public school, the judge ruled that the mother would need to pay the cost if she insisted that the children have an expensive education rather than a free one.