Practices, Games, & Fees, Oh My! Your Child's Extracurricular Activities & Co-Parenting
With school ending, summer starting, and a new school year around the corner, you and your child will be busy. More than likely, you will be taking your child to summer camps, morning practices(before the sun melts everything), after-work practices and games, and attending games in other cities (and possibly other states). And with all of this running around, you and your co-parent will need to communicate about sign-ups, enrollments, fees, costs, transportation and parenting time. Can't wait for the 2019-2020 school year to start, right?
I have seen a lot of parents struggle with or argue over what a parent's responsibility is when it comes to extracurricular activities. They cannot agree on activities, payments, transportation, or parenting time. There is too much arguing going on between parents on a topic they really should not be arguing about, as it is something their child may want to do/try.
The Top 3 Problems parents face when dealing with a child's extracurricular activities are:
Agreeing which activities a child should participate in;
Who is responsible for paying for the activity; and
"Interfering" with parenting time
Before I dive into each problem, let's first identify what is consider an extracurricular activity. An extracurricular activity can be which can include learning an instrument, participating in a sport, taking a gymnastics/dance class or driver's education, SAT prep classes, camps, scouts and a multiple of other activities..
Ways to Deal with the Top 3 Problems:
Before speaking with your child, parents should talk with each other first. Discuss what activity you believe is reasonable for your child to participate. Perhaps your child is not doing well in school or has been exhibiting bad behavior and allowing him or her to participate in an activity would not be the best fit right now. Or maybe it could, depending on the activity. Discuss how many activities are too many activities for your child to be in. Having a child enrolled in multiple activities during the week can often overwhelm the child, and the parent as well. Make sure you openly listen to the other parent's concerns and also calmly voice your concerns too. Then both parents and your child should sit down and discuss what your child is interested in and in what activity they wish to participate. Ask your child questions like: do they wish to participate in a school activity or an activity away from school? Do they understand everything that will be required of them if they enroll? Perhaps they will need to be financially responsible for some of it as well (if they have a history of waning interests). If your child wants to try a new activity and/or continue in an activity they have been participating in, a parent should never discourage or hamper their child from doing so.
Paying for your child's extracurricular activities can be costly and quickly add up. There are enrollment fees, uniforms, costumes, shoes, equipment, recital fees, and don't forget about gas money. And if the child is involved in an activity that requires travel, you may also be paying for transportation fees, hotels, and competition fees. So make sure you sit down co-parent and go over the costs and expenses together and discuss the financial aspect of the extracurricular activity. Now depending on your Court Order, a parent may be ordered to pay their fair percentage of these fees. You can usually find what the pro rata share (% amount) is by looking at the child support worksheet. If both parents earn approximately the same, I believe discussing the idea of sharing all extracurricular costs/expenses 50/50.
Believe it or not but parents will argue that the extracurricular activity interferes with their parenting time. Remember that parenting a child means taking a child not only to school or to their doctor appointments but also to their extracurricular activitivies. If the child has a practice, home or away game/match, a competition, team meeting, or anything they must attend, whoever has the child that day TAKES THE CHILD TO THEIR ACTIVITY. Period. Easy peasy right? Your child's extracurricular activity does not interfere with your parenting time, as, for the second time, being a parent includes taking your child to their extracurricular activities. I tell my clients all the time to suck it up, take their child, watch them, support them, encourage them, and cheer them on. It will mean everything to your child to do this and that is what truly matters. Also, do not be that parent which enrolls the child in a lot of activities for the sole purpose of attempting to disrupt the other parent's time with the child. It's only harming the child because you are using them against their other parent. This is why I strongly suggest co-parenting before enrolling your child in an extracurricular activity. Also, if the activity is during your parenting time and your co-parent attends, let your child go over and speak with him or her. While you may no longer be your co-parent's spouse or significant other, your co-parent will always be your child's parent.
You as a parent should never make your child feel as if they are a burden and deter them from participating in something they enjoy. Extracurricular activities are necessary in helping children learn social skills, build confidence, and maybe discover a new passion - why would you want to fight with your co-parent on something that benefits your child?
*Always follow your Court order. Some Courts have issued orders on what may happen if parents do not agree on extracurricular activity enrollments.
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