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Child Custody and School Residency Requirements

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Children need to be "residents" of the school district they wish to attend

By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Family Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

At this time of year, most clients I speak with about child custody want to learn more about where they should live or relocate in order for their child(ren) to attend a specific public school.  This is because the parent(s) of a child(ren) may wish to move during the summer to allow their kids to obtain a headstart on the next school year.  Or, in some instances, as with divorcing parents there may be a custody battle brewing that may take several summer months to play out and the courts may come to a determination at the beginning of the next school year.  Here is the general lay of the land, so to speak.

Under Pennsylvania case law and statute, only residency is required.  The term "resides," as it is used in the Public School Code, refers to a place where the custodial parent maintains a residence, and it need not be a primary residence or domicile.  Typically, the parents of a child may share physical custody and reside in different districts.  The child of the parents may attend either district.  There have been cases where it was determined that spending only one or two overnights in a school district was not sufficient to establish residency of the child, thereby entitling the child to a free public education.

So, the parent who maintains primary physical custody, typically, will enroll the child(ren) in their school district.  However, in rare cases, where the parents live close to one another yet in different school districts, the child(ren) may not need to attend the district in which the primary physical custodian lives.  Just so long as there are at least several nights per week when the child "resides" in their chose school district.

If you have questions regarding your custody matter or wish to learn more about custody and school residency requirements, contact us on above phone number or read more on our site at /Family-Law/. You may contact Attorney Jeffrey Engle directly at [email protected]

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