Maintaining safety in school during child custody disputes

There are many misconceptions made by school authorities regarding noncustodial parents, but the most common is the assumption that parents communicate with each other. There are two types of child custody, physical and legal. A parent with physical custody has physical custody of the child the majority of the time. In Georgia and elsewhere, parents with legal custody have the authority to make decisions regarding a child's education. The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act typically allows both parents access to school records, while most states have their own laws regarding this issue as well.

School officials recommend providing legal documents that map out child custody to their school at the beginning of each academic year. Announcements at open houses and newsletters are ways to remind parents the importance of filing legal documents with their child's school. A noncustodial parent cannot be denied access without specific court order. It is the parent's responsibility to file court documents with the school system since the court is not required to release the information.

Many schools are implementing specific protocols for picking up students, such as Student Information Systems. A valid ID is cross-checked against the information in the SIS files before a child is released to a particular individual. The program allows schools to track visitors and student attendance each day. Requiring all visitors to wear identification badges is another effective way to safeguard staff and students from unknown subjects on school grounds.

Thorough visitor management procedures and a well-versed staff who understands child custody documents are ways to protect a child's safety at school. Continued open communication about what should be done in an emergency is also important. In Georgia, parents who have concerns about noncustodial parents and their children's school may benefit from contacting an attorney to outline each parent's legal rights.

Source:, "How Schools Should Protect Students from Child Custody Disputes", Amy Rock, April 23, 2018

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