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.