Shared Custody and Extracurricular Activties / by Cassandra Hearn

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At the conclusion of any divorce or stand-alone custody action, the court will need to make a decision about what type of order will serve the child’s best interest.  In the vast majority of cases, parents are granted joint legal custody.  This means that the parents need to work together to make major decisions, such as those associated with school, religion, and medical care.  Typically the parents need to also cooperate and discuss extracurricular activities, and when those activities may impact the child’s health, safety, and welfare, they will likely be required to do so in the absence of a court order to the contrary.  If you and the other parent also have substantially equal time with the child, agreeing on extracurricular schedules can be more difficult.

In many circumstances, extra-curricular activities such as swimming lessons, soccer practice, or play rehearsal happen frequently, sometimes even more than once a week.  If, for example, you and the other parent alternate parenting time on a weekly basis, then these extra-curricular activities will impact not your parenting time, but also the other parent’s time.  For this reason, if you and the other parent share equal time and joint legal custody, you should not be making decisions about extra-curricular decisions unilaterally.  If the other parent does not agree with your decision to sign the child up for an activity that cuts into that parent’s residential time, that parent will be able to refuse to take the child to the activity during his or her time.  Without a court order that specifically requires that parent to ensure the child’s attendance, a judge will not find a parent in contempt for failing to take the child to the activity.  If you are concerned that the other parent will refuse to keep taking the child to particular activities during his or her time, you need to make sure the final order specifically sets out that each parent needs to take the child to those activities.  A judge will be far more likely to order this where the child has been involved in that activity before the divorce or custody action occurred.

If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities under your shared custody order, call us today.  We have experience in helping our clients with all types of custody issues.  Contact us today for a consultation.