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Massachusetts custody rules affect school residency requirements

Divorce is certainly a very serious remedy for problems within a marriage. However, at times it may be the only viable option available to the parties, especially if counseling has been attempted and failed. When children are involved, it becomes even more important to sort out all issues related to child custody. Parents must be aware that the custody decisions stipulated between them or mandated by the courts affect all aspects of their children's lives, even where they may be forced to enroll in school.

A proposal put before school administrators in Brookline could possibly cause 30 families to send their children to different schools due to property boundary issues. Also at issue would be the property values of homes bought at Brookline real estate prices that will suddenly become part of Boston.

This situation is replicated throughout the state of Massachusetts, especially between divorcing couples. One parent moves out of the family home and into a nearby community, but shares custody of the school-aged children. The so-called "Pillow Rule" can be invoked to determine where the children will attend school. Where does the child sleep? In shared custody agreements, that can make for a difficult decision with far-reaching effects.

Even in cases of divorce where the child is too young to be enrolled in school, these decisions can come back to haunt the parents, who naturally want to provide their children with the best education possible in the safest, most nurturing environment. During divorce negotiations and trials, emotions are running high, and often neither party is able to rationally evaluate all aspects of a situation, especially the future educational locations of young children.

At times like these, those facing divorce should consult with an attorney who will best represent their interests and those of any children of the marriage. This will help with accurately assessing issues such as geographic boundaries affecting real estate valuations and all present and future educational concerns of the children.

Source: bostonherald.com, "School officials: Residency decision a 'tough call'" Rebecca Stone, Dec. 10, 2013

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