Extra-curricular activities after Separation and Divorce
Even in the most collaborative of divorces, the transition from having one household to having two households can be disruptive for children. As stated in several other blog articles, parents who are going through a divorce should provide stability to their children everywhere they can. Where possible, children should remain in the same school and keep the same group of friends so as to lessen the impact of this tumultuous transition. Daily routines should be maintained in both parents’ homes, including chores, bedtimes, and after-school routines.
A major source of this stability comes in the form of extra-curricular activities, however often times parents who are divorcing will disagree about costs, scheduling conflicts, transportation and other logistics. For this reason, it is imperative that parents set aside their differences and put together a plan for how to tackle some issues that relate to extracurricular activities. Even though it may be difficult for you and your spouse to deal with one another in a calm and rational way, doing so is a major key to providing your child with the stability and comfort he or she needs. By tackling the issues of cost, schedule, priority and transportation up-front, you and your ex can lessen the impact that your divorce will have on your children. As you and your ex implement orders or agreements in Support and Custody, work with your attorney to accommodate the costs and time commitments of existing activities as well as those that your children may want to explore in the future.
There is a big difference between flag football and, say, NASA Space Camp. Be conscious not only of your household budget but also your ex’s household budget, and pick extracurriculars that suit those budgets. Where one party prioritizes an activity that doesn’t suit the other party’s budget, you should figure out a way to apportion the cost in a way that allows for your children to participate in that activity without knowing the details of who pays for what. Activities that have been going on for years prior to separation should take precedence here, with new ones being added schedule and budget permitting. Parties should consider not only the cost to join an activity, but also added costs like equipment, travel, and regular dues. The more detail the better as unexpected or unplanned-for costs can create unnecessary stress for everyone, especially your children. Where possible, you should make your child support Order or Agreement factor in the cost of extracurricular activities. Again, the more detail you can include when it comes to costs, both existing and in the future, the better.
In a custodial arrangement where your children are spending nights at both parents’ houses, chances are that extracurricular activities will take place during both parents’ time. Where possible, plan for how an activity will impact each parent’s time with the children to ensure that neither party has their schedule disproportionately impacted. Factor in travel time and remain flexible to weekly changes in schedule. If one parent prioritizes an activity or wants to explore a new one, they should be willing to have their custodial time impacted. Have a conversation with your ex about whether or not a new time commitment is feasible given your custody schedule, and make adjustments/compromises where necessary. Always remember that although you and your ex may butt heads about what’s fair when it comes to custodial time, your children should not have to miss out on things that they want to try or that their friends are doing. Make sure your Order factors in activities where applicable. Again, ironing out as many details as possible in the beginning can reduce unnecessary stress, confusion and arguments.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys or for further information, call us at LaMonaca Law, at (610) 892-3877