We often have clients who run into difficulties with their former partners about collecting the children from school and there is a lot of confusion about what can and cannot be done in this regard. It also appears as if the approach of schools is inconsistent and remains a grey area.
At law each parent ordinarily has parental responsibility for a child. This means that even after separation they have all the rights and responsibilities conferred by law in respect of that child.
Only a court can take away that parental responsibility, but there is a presumption at law that when making an order a court will make an order for equal shared parental responsibility. This means that in most cases both parents will have parental responsibility for a child.
In the absence of a court order stating otherwise, either parent can collect a child from school and the school does not have the power to refuse a parent from collecting their child.
If there are any orders about the specific times that each parent has the children as well as collection and handover arrangements, these should be provided to the school to avoid any disputes about these issues.
If there are any concerns about the other parent collecting a child from school, the concerned parent could contact the school to advise of their concerns and the basis for them. Generally what would happen is that if the other parent then tries to collect the child from school, the school would contact the concerned parent to advise them accordingly.
Intervention Orders can also restrain a party from attending at a school or from coming into contact or attempting to communicate with a child. If an Intervention Order is in place, a copy should be given to the school immediately and you should ensure that the school informs all relevant staff of the existence of the Intervention Order.
If there are any concerns that a parent may do the wrong thing and collect a child from school when it is not their time, the best course of action is to ensure that the parenting arrangements are recorded in a court order. This can be done by having a consent order.
After this is done the school can legitimately refuse a parent access to collect the child if the orders state it is not their time to be with the child.