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Must schools enforce Family Court Orders?

Dr Hudson and his wife had separated before their child began attending a South Australian state school. It was not a happy family, having been before the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court 44 times before Dr Hudson brought a claim of sex discrimination against the school!

One of the Family Court orders said that the mother had to enter the father’s name and contact details as the second person to be contacted in case of emergency on any school enrolment form. The school knew of the orders. Dr Hudson complained that his telephone number was incorrectly noted on the enrolment form. The Tribunal said that the order was directed to the mother and did not impose an obligation on the school to ensure that the mother complied with the order. Schools are not enforcement agencies for the Family Court. Yet, in our experience, parents commonly expect the school both to take a side in their family dispute and to act like a policeman toward their partner.

Family Court orders often refer to information that should be provided to a child’s school and to information that both parents have a right to be given by the child’s school. Such orders are binding on the parties to the dispute. It is important that others persons, particularly a child’s school, be made aware of the court orders. Schools should not put obstacles in the way of compliance by the parties with the orders. Indeed, schools should wherever possible facilitate a parent’s access to information and material concerning the child.

However, even though schools ought to facilitate the rights of parents under Family Court orders, it is not a school’s role to oversee compliance with such orders by the parents concerned. A school principal has no authority from the Court either to oversee a parent’s compliance with the orders or to enforce the orders.

When family law issues arise, there is rarely time for leisurely research. One parent has arrived early to collect a child and is in your school reception area. The Court Orders say that the other parent is to collect the child that day. We can provide quick telephone advice to help you deal with such matters. Just call David Ford (9291 7134) or Stephanie McLuckie (02 9291 7180).

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