Issues Library—Parental Rights

Custody Disputes


Disputes over the custody of minors occur on a daily basis—when parents who were never married move away from one another, during and after a divorce, or when an extended family member or friend demands access to a child. In these situations, if the parties cannot resolve the matter privately, they often invoke a third party—usually the court system—to intervene.

What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard?

When a dispute over custody goes to court, the judge reviews both parties’ requests and any relevant evidence and then makes a decision based the best interest of the child, a legal standard defined and applied both in statutory and case law.

In What Situations Do Custody Disputes and Homeschooling Intersect?

There are two primary ways in which custody disputes can impact homeschoolers.

First, especially in the early years of the modern homeschooling movement, homeschool families often had their custody challenged by the state because of their decision to homeschool. HSLDA has successfully represented homeschool families in many such cases over the years, and courts now consistently acknowledge the parental right to choose homeschooling for their children.

Second, as homeschooling has become a more popular educational choice, it has also become a source of contention between parents, particularly divorcing parents. In many cases, the children were homeschooled before the divorce, but after it, one of the parents disputes the other’s decision to continue homeschooling. If both parents are still considered to be “fit”, that is, neither parent’s rights have been terminated, then both parents have an equal “say” in how their children will be raised. Thus, when the disagreement about educational choice cannot be resolved privately, a judge makes a decision based on what the evidence shows is in the children’s best interest.

Do Judges Ever Decide that Homeschooling is in the Child’s Best Interest?

Yes. In fact, HSLDA has compiled a number of cases in which homeschooling is an issue in a custody dispute. You can find this research on our website >>