Deciding and Allocating Extracurricular Activities Post-Divorce
Children today are expected, and some demand, to be involved in a number of extracurricular activities. These endeavors are tied to better sociability, self-esteem, and overall development into a productive adult. Coordinating work, school, and after-school activities as an intact couple is challenging for all parents, logistically and financially. These challenges are even greater when parents divorce, and must decide how to meet these same obligations without the dedicated support of the other spouse. Cost, in particular, can be a contentious issue, though child support does take this expense into account. However, the needs of the child often change over time, and if the child is young when the divorce occurs, it is impossible to know which activities the child will choose. Further, there is the issue of which parent gets to consent to the child’s participation in the first place. A discussion of how parents can work through these difficulties, as well as how courts typically address this issue, will follow below.
Parents want to do what is best for their children, including allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities. When parents divorce, though, this plan quickly becomes considerably more complicated, as the following issues will need to be addressed:
- how many activities should the child be permitted to participate in annually;
- how the cost of these activities should be divided between the parents; and
- how the parents will handle transporting the child between school and outside commitments.
On their face, these issues may seem simple to resolve, but in practice, parents can quickly disagree on how to execute this aspect of childcare. To avoid the potential for dispute, and reduce the likelihood of needing to return to court to resolve disagreements, parents should take the time to clearly outline in the parenting plan how this particular childcare duty will be handled. Specifically, a parenting plan should include provisions that address the following:
- how many activities the child can participate in annually, or a cap on the yearly cost, both measures being particularly important if there are concerns one parent may over-schedule the child;
- how disagreements will be resolved, g., each parent selects an activity if one cannot be agreed upon; and
- how to allocate the cost of child’s participation – split equally or according to the parent’s income, whether the cost sharing include supplies or just participation, and whether travel costs split.
One final point, the scheduling of extracurricular activities needs to be done with an eye to not unreasonably infringe on the other parent’s exercise of parenting time. Otherwise, the ex-spouses are likely to end up back in court arguing over how to navigate this issue.
In any child-related issue, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child, which examines how decision-making authority and parenting time should be organized to meet the child’s needs. The ability of parents to cooperate for the good of the child is a big factor in the judge’s ultimate decision on how to allocate decision-making authority, and if one parent appears to be combative over all child-related decisions or has little involvement in the child’s life beyond basic childcare duties, a court could be more likely to give one parent a majority or all of the decision-making authority. In fact, involvement in school and extracurricular activities is specifically listed as a factor when determining the best interests of the child, so it is in the parents’ best interest to promote cooperation to avoid getting the court’s attention in a negative way. An experienced family law attorney can help to identify facts and produce evidence in favor of sole or majority responsibility for decision-making to ensure the child is not negatively affected by one parent’s unwillingness to compromise.
Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer
Any issue related to your child should be of paramount importance, and the experienced attorneys at Donna Hung Law Group understand the stress and frustration disagreements with an ex-spouse can generate. If you have concerns over extracurricular activities or other aspects of sharing parental responsibility, contact this Orlando law firm to learn your rights and legal options.