When going through a divorce or custody action, most parents are focused on the big picture issues, such as parenting time and child support. There are many other issues that require the parents’ attention, however, and these issues will change depending on the child and his or her individual needs. Most children will participate in extracurricular activities at some point. It is important for parents to understand how extracurricular activities interact with parenting time.
The most common question in this issue is whether a parent can unilaterally decide to sign the child up for an activity. To answer this question, the parents will need to refer to their custody order. In the majority of cases, the parties will have joint legal custody. This means that they are both able to make these types of decisions. In other words, if you want to sign your child up for violin lessons, you will likely not need the permission of the other parent if you have joint legal custody.
The next essential issue is what happens when the extracurricular activity falls during the other parent’s time with the child. Unless the court order specifically requires the parents to take the child to extracurricular activities, the parent enjoying parenting time is not required to take the child to that activity during his or her parenting time. For example, if the mother signed the child up for violin lessons, but the lessons sometimes fall during the father’s parenting time, he will not be required to take the child to the lessons unless there is specific language in the order requiring him to do so.
Some parents may also be concerned that the activities selected by the other parent are not appropriate. This is most commonly seen with dangerous activities, like contact sports or motocross. Again, if the parties have joint legal custody, neither parent can block the other from signing the child up for the activities. However, the objecting parent may file with the court asking that the other parent not be permitted to enroll the child in inherently dangerous activities. Where one parent is “over scheduling” the child, the objecting parent would take the same path of filing with the court to ask for an order restricting extracurricular enrollment.