Shared Custody and Extracurricular Activities

At the conclusion of any divorce or child custody suit, the trial court must make a determination as to what type of custody split is in the child’s best interest. In the optimal situation, the parents can sit down and hammer out an agreement themselves so that they can make a parenting plan that is tailor-made to fit the needs of their children. The majority of parenting plans provide for joint legal custody, but this is not the same as shared physical custody. To qualify as shared physical custody, the parties must both have significant periods of parenting time with the child. It does not have to mean that the parents have exactly equal time with the child, but rather that the non-residential parent have the children at least forty-five percent of the time.

When parents have substantially equal time, extracurricular activities can become an issue between the parents. If the parents have joint legal custody, they both have the right to sign the child up for extracurricular activities. However, when parents have substantially equal time, it is likely that the extracurricular activity will occur during both the parenting time of the parent who signed the child up for the activity as well as the parenting time of the other parent. The best way to make sure that such a situation does not create conflict is to build a provision into the parenting order regarding extracurricular activities and under what circumstances a parent can sign the child up for activities. For example, parents may want to include a provision in their parenting plan that requires the parents to consult each other before signing the child up for an activity that would overlap both parents’ residential time, and if they cannot agree, the parents must attend mediation or even return to court before the child can be enrolled in such an activity.

In the absence of an agreement or court order, neither parent can force the other to take the child to an activity during his or her parenting time. Just because the mother signs the child up for dance lessons does not mean that the father is automatically obligated to get the child to rehearsal or recitals that occur during the father’s parenting time. However, keeping the child’s best interest front and center in all decisions about extracurricular activities is of the utmost importance.

The cost of extracurricular activities is also something that parents should consider. Minnesota child support is defined under 518.26 as including costs for the child’s housing, food, clothing, transportation, and education costs as well as other costs relating to the child’s care. In other words, child support is not necessarily designed to cover extracurricular activities. If the parents agree to divide the costs, that is totally up to those parents, but the Minnesota court will not force the parents to divide the cost absent an agreement.

If you have questions about shared custody or extracurricular activities, you need an experienced attorney to help you. We have helped our clients with all types of custody issues. Call us today for an appointment.

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