Extracurricular activities are an important part of most kids’ childhoods. When their parents are divorcing, having the consistency of games, lessons and other activities can be extremely important to kids. However, too often, co-parents’ disagreements over which extracurricular activities are appropriate and/or affordable can threaten these important outlets for their children.
Even happily married parents often disagree over extracurricular activities. One parent may not want their kids participating in sports like football and soccer where they could be seriously injured. Another may not want to spend the money needed to give their child violin lessons. Many extracurricular activities require a time commitment that many parents don’t have — particularly if they’re divorced.
How should co-parents who share custody of their kids resolve conflicts over extracurricular activities? First, as with most child-related decisions, it’s crucial to determine whether your position is based on what’s best for your child or what you want for them.
Expense can be an important factor. If you want your child to continue their gymnastics training, are you willing to pay for at least a portion of it?
Communication is key. Before the school year begins or as sign-up time nears, it’s best if parents can get together and make sure they’re on the same page regarding their kids’ extracurricular activities. A parent shouldn’t sign up a child for classes or a team and then confront their co-parent with a bill for half the cost or a drop-off/pick-up schedule.
If extracurricular activities are a big part of your kids’ lives, it may be wise to include them in your parenting plan. For example, you can address issues like:
It’s typically best to allow kids to continue in the activities they’re already involved in, but you may want to require mutual agreement on new activities.
– How the expenses will be split, as well as the maximum amount each parent can be required to contribute
– Which parent will be responsible for getting the kids to and from practice, lessons, games and performances.
– How disputes will be resolved if parents can’t reach agreement on their own.
Whether you’re still drafting your parenting plan or you’d like to add some provisions to it regarding your children’s extracurricular activities, your family law attorney can help you.
Although many do not realize it, one often contentious issue regarding child custody involves the child’s extracurricular activities. Questions regarding whether the child will participate in football, ballet, baseball, or tap, and what limits, if any, should be placed on a child’s involvement in extracurricular activities often lead to disagreements between parents. Additionally, scheduling issues and the possibility that an activity sponsored by one parent may infringe on the other parents parenting time may also lead to contention. Although agreement between the parents regarding their child’s extracurricular activities is ideal, it is crucial for a determination to be made regarding which parent will have final decision-making authority regarding this issue in the likely event the parties disagree.
Often, a child’s extracurricular activities are closely related to his or her education and schooling. Thus, the parent awarded final decision-making authority concerning education often seeks final decision-making authority concerning extracurricular activities as well. Due to the close relationship of these two issues, it is often the case that the parent awarded final decision-making authority concerning education is also granted final decision-making authority concerning extracurricular activities as well. However, this outcome is not guaranteed as legal custody issues, including final decision-making authority, are always subject to Georgia’s best interests of the child analyses. See O.C.G.A. §19-9-3.
Limits on Extracurricular Activities
To aid in disputes regarding final decision-making for extracurricular activities, the courts have imposed several interesting ideas that might help you resolve problems in this area. For example, in one case, a judge allowed one parent to pick out the fall activities and the other one to pick out activities for the rest of the year. As another example, a court allowed each parent to pick one activity and placed a limit of no more than two activities at a time for that child.
Decisions made by parents awarded final decision-making authority regarding their child’s extracurricular activities often include, among others, decisions on whether:
– the child will participate in any extracurricular activities
– which activities the child will join,
– how many activities the child will join,
– when the child is allowed to participate in said activities, and
– whether any limits will be placed on the activities.
Although no parent wishes to limit their children, limits on the type, number, and timing of extracurricular activities are often necessary due to academic concerns, considerations that must be made to comply with visitation and custody schedules, and the costs associated with certain activities.
An important issue for many parents is payment for children’s extracurricular activities. Payment of the expenses associated with extracurricular activities may be considered in the child support calculation. See Turner v. Turner, 285 Ga. 866 (2009) and O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 (i). Alternatively, if the parties agree, the parties may share the expenses associated with extracurricular activities either equally or otherwise. However, Georgia case law suggests that although the parties may agree to share the costs associated with their child’s extracurricular activities, a court may not mandate the parent obligated to pay child support to additionally pay a portion of the expenses related to the extracurricular activity costs, absent that party’s agreement to do so. See Turner, Supra.