Wanna put an unpleasant divorce behind you? Consider moving to Tristan Da Cunha, in the calm and lovely brutally harsh South Atlantic Ocean! Tristan Da Cunha, the most remote place on earth, is 1,750 miles from South Africa. It’s as good a place as any to move if you hope to transfer your child out of school to a spot midway between your house and your child’s mother’s place. Here’s why.

School Residency Requirements in Virginia

Suppose you thoughtfully develop a plan hatch a mad scheme to send your children to a school geographically halfway between your home and your spouse’s digs. You would save time, money, fuel, and a bit of sanity with such a move, because you and your spouse would both be traveling the same distance to pick up or drop off your kids at school. Right?

Many school districts honor the optional “Open school enrollment policy” laid down in Code of Virginia § 22.1-7.1, which seems to give you carte blanche to send your kid anywhere you like.

Seems to, until you actually read the law:

  1. Any local school board may establish and implement policies to provide for the open enrollment to any school of any student residing within the school division upon the request of a parent or guardian. In developing such policies, a local school board may include the following conditions and limitations:
  2. An application process whereby a parent or guardian indicates a school preference for purposes of his child attending a school in the child’s school division but outside of the attendance area in which the child resides;
  3. A requirement that the parent or guardian provide transportation for the student attending a school other than his assigned school;

See that persnickety residency requirement tucked in there? The student must be within the school division, so if the child is living with your spouse, your spouse must be within the boundaries of the school division, which means one of Virginia’s 133 school districts within the eight regions defined by the Department of Education.

See that second caveat? If you do decide to relocate Junior to a school midway between your house and your ex-spouse’s house within the same school district, you and your former spouse are responsible for getting Junior to and from school every day.

Every year.

In all kinds of weather.

Year after year. 

Kids go to school from age five onwards for 180 days each year; 13 x 180 = 2,340 days of driving back and forth. That’s basic math, and it paints a grim future for you.

Basic Virginia Math

Virginia’s 42,775 square miles are not evenly divided among its 133 school divisions, but let’s suppose they were. Each school district would be only 321 square miles, which could be a 20-mile x 16-mile district, as one example.

If you and your former spouse were at the extreme edges of such a district, a school halfway between your homes would only be 10 miles away.

Most people would find very little value in uprooting a child from a nearby school, perhaps only blocks away, to send her or him to a school 10 miles away.

For the Best Interests of The Children

Your children’s school is largely their social life. School activities, extracurricular clubs, athletics, tutoring, and friendship circles all revolve around that school. Asking children to put all that aside for one parent’s convenience in travel is, to put it politely, a selfish thing for a parent to do.

It also is really an inconvenience, since the two parents will be saddled with daily trips to and from school. When Junior is in the school play (“Our Friend the Forest,” our kid’s the second tree from the left!) or on the Frisbee Golf team, that means additional drives back and forth after school hours.

And children grow; they move from elementary to high school during their school careers. What if the high school is only 46.798 percent of the distance between the two parents’ homes? Do you return to court to compel one spouse to move?

One Good Reason

The only good reason to relocate a child from one school to another is to promote the child’s natural academic ability. Virginia’s magnet schools are free public schools that promote academic excellence and give parents and children choice.

A foundation of Virginia’s Code of laws is doing what is in “the best interest of the child.” Relocating your children to new schools should only be done when such a move is for the betterment of the child, not the parents.

You may find some “attorney” willing to try to force a change of school on your children after a divorce. You will probably lose in court and you may fail as a parent. May we instead suggest a one-way trip to Tristan Da Cunha? We hear it’s lovely this time of year.

Call the Child Custody Lawyers for Dads!

Got confounding questions about child custody, parenting time, or other aspects of divorce in Virginia? Bring those questions to us at The Firm For Men. Contact us today or telephone our Virginia Beach office at (757) 383-9184. We help defend Virginia men’s rights in and out of court every day.