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Can both parents attend a child's IEP meeting after divorce?

If you are in the process of divorcing and have a child with a disability, one thing you may be wondering is whether both parents can attend a child’s IEP meeting after the divorce is final. As you probably know, these meetings can shape your child’s education and future, and they are often of critical importance.

Whether both parents are allowed to attend depends largely on the divorce agreement, so whatever you predict your custody circumstances will be like, it is a good idea to make specific provisions for the needs of your special education child.

Legal custody

The parent who has legal custody of a child is the one with the authority to make decisions about special education. If only one parent has legal custody, he or she may or may not allow the other parent to attend IEP meetings and provide input. If you are a parent who has physical custody (or some physical custody) but not legal custody, it is possible that the other parent could bar you from IEP meetings.

Joint legal custody

In many co-parenting arrangements, both parents have joint legal custody. This means they both typically have the right to attend IEP meetings and make decisions about special education. However, the divorce agreement can be written with some modifications, so there are exceptions.

Problems may occur when both parents share legal custody but disagree on the educational course their child should take. Cooperative approaches such as mediation and dispute resolution through the school system may help. If they do not, it is possible that one parent (or both) may seek to change the divorce agreement.

If you wish to remain a part of your child’s education no matter what, it is important that your divorce decree reflects this desire. You can speak with a lawyer to ensure that you always retain the right to attend IEP meetings and make educational decisions.