Warrington School/Board Of Trustees/Custodial Agreements

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Warrington School NAG 5

These instructions outline the responsibilities of the Principal and staff where a person claiming to be parent or guardian seeks contact with a child at school, or wishes to have information on the progress at school of a child. They contain general guidelines, which may be helpful in cases of doubt.

1. Guardianship

  • In general terms, both natural parents are the guardians of their children if they were in a relationship (marriage, de facto) at the time the child was born. Guardianship begins when the children are born and ends when they turn 18 (Care of Children Act), or marry under that age. It does not matter whether the parents are living together, separated, or divorced. As guardians, parents make the decisions about important matters affecting their children - for example, how and where they will be educated and in what, if any, religion. If guardians cannot agree over any matter, they may apply to the Family Court for a decision.

2. Care

  • Means having the day-to-day care of the children. The person who “has day-to-day care” is responsible for the everyday decisions about the children. On separation or divorce, one parent may be awarded day-to-day care, with the other parent awarded the right of reasonable contact, or both parents may be awarded shared care, with this latter arrangement becomingly increasingly more common.

--RachelO 03:05, 17 December 2010 (UTC)

3. Contact

  • Contact allows the child to spend time, either directly or indirectly with the non-carer parent. This can occur through visits, outings, and letters or phone calls. Any formal contact arrangements will be provided by a Court Order. The Court, in certain circumstances, can provide for contact by other relatives and again these will be provided in the appropriate Court Order. The welfare of the child is the first and paramount consideration when the Court makes decisions about guardianship, day-to-day care, or contact.
It is important for us to note that both parents have both equal care and contact rights. These rights are retained until there is a separation order or court order, which may give one parent day-to-day care of the child and the other parent restricted contact rights.

Because of their emotional involvement, parents who have decided to separate often become highly concerned about their children and highly suspicious of the actions of the other parent. Difficult situations can arise very quickly, and the Principal will have to rely on his/her own judgement in deciding what to do. S/he should be guided, however, by the following points:

  • A Court can restrict the care or contact rights of a parent, and this will be defined in a Court Order.
  • Both parents are entitled to make an agreement as to each one’s rights. If such an agreement is drawn up by solicitors and properly completed, it binds both parents, in the absence of any other information available (i.e. advice from one parent that the matter is before the Family Court).
  • The carer parent must agree before the non-carer parent has any right to vary an agreement or Court order.
  • The non-carer parent is entitled to contact at such times as laid down in an agreement or a Court order. The carer parent cannot prevent such contact.
  • Principals do not enforce agreements or Court orders, but act according to the wishes of that parent who has legal responsibility for the child at that time.
  • Unless a Court rules otherwise, both parents are entitled to a copy of their child’s reports, to discuss the educational progress of their child with the Principal and teacher (if the Principal agrees), and to participate in PTA and other parent functions at the school.

4. The right to meet children at school Parents are entitled to have reasonable contact with their children at school. All persons seeking contact should see the Principal (through the Office) first. Teachers, if they have knowledge of matrimonial disputes, should share such information with the Principal, so that we may be alerted should difficulties arise. If we have reasonable doubts about the identity, good faith, or legal rights of the person wishing to have contact with a child, we will contact the person who is known to have day-to-day care of the child to find out if the person does have some right of contact. If the person claims to have contact under a Court Order, s/he should be asked to produce it, or name a Solicitor from whom inquiry can be made. Our responsibility is to exercise as much care and skill in looking after the welfare of children as would a reasonable parent. If we have reasonable doubts, we can refuse or restrict contact. The final responsibility rests on the parent who has day-to-day care of the child, who has an onus to inform the Principal.

5. Approval to remove a child from school

  • The Principal, if s/he has reason to doubt the legal right of a person to remove a child, is entitled to refuse custody until that person satisfies the Principal of their entitlement. A simple but effective method of doing this is for the Principal to contact one of the parents’ solicitors to ascertain if a Court order or agreement exists and the terms of such an order or agreement.

Where a Principal becomes concerned about a child being claimed alternately by the parents, s/he should suggest to one or both parents that the matter be referred to their solicitors to work out an agreement until the Court hears the custody dispute.

  • Where any person calls at the school with a request for contact with, or removal of the child creates a disturbance, he may be guilty of an offence under Section 195 of the Education Act 1989 which places an obligation on members of the public not to disturb the work of a school. Such a person could be asked to leave and, if the person refuses to leave or to act reasonably, the Police should be called. While waiting for the Police, the parent should not have contact with the child.

6. School involvement in custody hearings

  • Principals and teachers are sometimes asked to give information or evidence to be used in custody proceedings. It is desirable that the school should not take sides in

the dispute. No information is to be given to any person involved in such situation, either verbally or in writing, unless authorised by the Principal (this includes lawyers for parents or lawyers for child).

  • Written communications to any person/agency, will only be given under the Principal’s signature. The Principal should only give a report or affidavit if requested by the Court, CYFS, or Solicitor appointed by the Court to act for the child. In some circumstances, s/he should obtain legal advice.
  • It is possible that either party may subpoena a teacher or Principal to appear before a Court and give evidence, and a subpoena must be complied with. In some situations, advice from NZEI Counsellors may be sought.
  • The reasoning behind the restrictions on communication above, is to:
    • (1)Protect teachers from the Court process as far as possible; and
    • (2)Protect the school itself by ensuring that what is given will not have ramifications for the staff or the school.

If a staff member is required to attend court for such a reason, legal guidance and possible representation will be sought.

Teachers must check with the office, at the beginning of the term, for the names of children in their rooms who have contact orders against them. The office will keep a central list of these