Possibly, if the suggestion that schools are generically better in NJ is a covert ploy to gain physical custody. If the efforts persist, your sister might be able to make a case that this is an indirect way of disparaging a parent and undermining her authority under the joint custody agreement to have both physical custody and decisionmaking over schooling. She should speak to a family court attorney about the advisability of filing an enforcement petition in NY Family Court to stop this behavior.
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If your sister is engaged in negotiations of this magnitude, I hope she has a lawyer she is discussing this problem with. To answer part of your question, a court can direct one parent to stay out of the school selection process. But that isn't really the problem. The problem is that dad is belittling everything about the child's life with mom in order to get the child to want to live with, or at least spend more time with, dad. You are correct that this puts the child in the middle of the parent's fight and places excessive stress upon the child. It is a terrible thing for a parent to do.
While a court can order parents not to discuss these issues with the child, such orders are nearly impossible to enforce. However, if his actions are proven to the court, he may find the result is the opposite of what he desires.
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If your sister will be the one make educational decisions, then there is no reason to force her to explore schools in NJ. Forcing her to do that, means that she has conditional educational decision making. Neither parent should be campaigning the child on any issue. Both parents should support the child spending time with the other parent and should not behave in a manner designed to alienate the child from the other. Yes, he is required as a part to be positive and support the child living in NYC much like the mother should support the child spending time in NJ with his dad.
I would not agree to that option. The father's move makes it less likely that he would get custody of the child. There are so many factors that affect custody issues that it would be unfair of me to give you any definitive answer.
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There are many factors in determining custody and visitation. One of which is whether either parent is placing undue stress on the child as it appears the father is doing here. If the mother has the right to make the decision about school, but has to consider schools in NJ, then she should do so but ultimately it is her decision as to which school is chosen. If the father continues to pressure the child, it should be brought to the court's attention and an appropriate court order can be put in place.
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