Parents who are divorced or separated should agree on their children’s
extracurricular activities and share costs, when possible, to make the
experience more enjoyable for everyone.
By ATTORNEY ANDY P. MILLER
Late summer is a time of year when parents start evaluating before-school,
after-school and other extracurricular activities. This is stressful no
matter what your family situation is but, when you and your spouse are
divorced or separated, the stress is compounded by court orders (or sometimes
the lack thereof!).
If you are separated or divorced, here are a few pointers for selecting
activities for your child:
- Communication is key! Neither parent should be talking with the children
about activities until the parents have communicated between themselves
first. Too often I get calls because one parent promised a child that
he or she could sign up for an activity that the other parent objects
to or can’t afford. This type of situation is easily avoided by
reaching out to the other parent before scheduling an activity for your
child. By speaking to the other parent first, you can avoid letting your
children down or having to take back a promise. You also allow your co-parent
to explain his or her objections, which can help lead to compromise.
- Be considerate of cost. Every family’s financial situation is different,
especially following separation or divorce. This is important to remember
as some people approach a situation based on “what my friend who
is divorced” does. A common approach to paying for extracurricular
costs is for each parent to share the costs. Again, both parties may not
be able to afford this in every family situation. Consider sharing the
costs of one activity that your child has been involved in for a long
period of time or, if your child hasn’t participated in activities
before, try to select one activity that both parents agree is important
or that the child chooses and agree to share those costs. If either parent
wants to enroll a child in additional activities, allow that parent to
do so at his or her expense. Another suggestion is to share costs proportional
to each party’s income.
- Be considerate of time. Most parents want to maximize the time they have
with their children. When co-parenting with your former (or soon-to-be
former) spouse, make sure you aren’t looking at activities that
are primarily during the other parent’s time with your children.
Also be considerate of the location of the activity. For example, participating
on a travel sports team will of require more of a time commitment than
participating in a local league. If one parent’s work schedule limits
most of his or her parenting time to weekends, extensive involvement in
certain weekend activities or those that require travel will mean even
less quality parenting time for that parent.
Andy P. Miller is the Founder & Managing Attorney of Miller Law Group, P.C.