We write a lot about child custody and visitation issues, and many of our blogs are advice driven. For most clients their current divorce will be their only divorce. Much of what they are dealing with is foreign to them; especially when it comes to custody issues. As parents we want what’s best for our children, but often the emotion and turmoil surrounding a divorce can get in the way of making the best decisions.
One thing I have found to be helpful for children is to continue on doing the extracurricular activities they have always done. It provides stability and continuity in an otherwise new and changing circumstance. Extracurricular activities also provide children a way of expressing themselves and maintaining a healthy confidence; both of which are important as they adjust to their new lives.
As a parent myself, I know just how difficult it is to manage school, activities, sports and play dates, even when there are two people actively working together to get everyone where they need to be. Remove one of those people and add in job responsibilities and home responsibilities… the end result seems like an impossible task. I am here to tell you it is not.
One of the first issues that come up when discussing extracurricular activities is, “which ones will they do?” Parents do not always agree on the type or amount of activities a child is involved with. This leads to arguments between the parents. Other times, the parents cannot agree on who will bring the children to the activities. It is generally understood that if a parent has custody a child during a specific time, they are responsible for ensuring that child gets where they need to go. That is often easier said than done, especially if one parent is working and the other is not. Finally, these activities all have a cost. This invariably leads to how that cost will be allocated.
Often these issues can be resolved by having an open and frank conversation with the other parent. The parents should look to reach an agreement as to the activities the children will participate in and the allocation of responsibility for transportation and cost. These conversations are not always possible, so often times your attorney will need to step in and work with the other party’s attorney to resolve them. A typical resolution looks like this:
“The parties agree to equally share in the cost of all agreed upon extracurricular activities. The parties agree to meet and confer prior to signing a child upon for any activities that will impact the pother parent’s custodial time. If a parent fails to contact the other parent about any activity prior to signing the child up for that activity, the other parent shall have no obligation to pay for any of the expense or provide transportation for the activity.” We do not advise parents to sign children up for activities without the other parents’ consent. Ultimately it puts the child in the middle of the argument between the parents and that is not healthy. If the issue cannot be resolved, there is the chance the child will be left disappointed and unhappy. However, we only represent one side of the equation and cannot control the other parent. So, from time to time, the other parent will sign a child up for an activity without permission. There are options available to address this poor decision by the pother parent, but you must act quickly. If this happens it is important you call your lawyer right away so it can be addressed immediately.
Another discussion that parents must have is with the child. With the new family dynamic and change in child sharing responsibility, sometimes certain activities are not feasible. You should sit down with your child and ask them which activity is the most important to them. Explain to the child that in life we are often faced with a choice between two things we want equally. In those situations we must make a decision and stick with it. Use this scenario as a way to teach your child an important life lesson. It will also provide them with a sense of control in their life. Lack of control over situations is a feeling children have during a divorce, especially at the outset.
Even when it is hard, working with the other parent to ensure your children’s live experience the least amount of change will be in their best interest every time. It will not be easy, but a qualified family law attorney can provide guidance and advice to help you along the way. A good attorney also has relationships with other professionals that can provide the tools and resources necessary to give your children the best possible chance of a successful transition.
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.