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Balancing Extracurricular Activities and Child Custody, Without Conflicts
Here are some strategies while being intentional about both your parenting decisions and the quality of life for your kids.
Are you a harried co-parent trying to figure out how to manage the ever-changing challenge of parenting during and after divorce? It can be difficult to balance your child custody agreement, while ensuring your children still enjoy meaningful extracurricular activities to enrich their lives.
If you’re facing this dilemma, take a deep breath. There are strategies to help you manage your time more effectively, while being intentional about both your parenting decisions and the quality of life for your kids.
Are Extracurricular Activities Decided During a Divorce?
In New Jersey, the courts ensure that basic expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing are included in a child support award. There’s even a small provision for certain types of extracurricular activities. Yet, there’s no agreed-upon schedule for when, where, and how those enrichment activities take place.
During the divorce, the custody and holiday schedules for when each co-parent will care are determined. So then, how do you deal with the evolving schedule of recreational activities, especially if you experience conflict with your co-parent?
Co-Parents Partner to Create Activity Schedules That Work for Everyone
The short answer to this dilemma is that you and your co-parent must determine the schedule of when activities will happen and who’ll drop off and pick up the kids. You must both work together to determine if the activities are something you both agree your child should take part in and attend.
One major concern co-parents share with us is how to schedule extracurricular time when parenting time is already limited. If one parent only sees the child every other weekend, they might push back against extracurriculars that will take up a large portion of their limited time with the child.
In this situation, it’s necessary to look at other options for extracurricular activities. For instance, you may have to adjust the schedule or the location of the activity to be more accommodating to the other parent. In some cases, you may have to reevaluate the custody schedule to allow for more parenting time to compensate for the extracurricular.
Are Extra Activities Included in Child Support?
Many parents who are ordered to pay child support wonder if they’re paying for extracurricular activities additionally or if these are covered under the support. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily a clear-cut issue.
In New Jersey, child support covers a wide range of activities and expenses including “entertainment expenditures, specifically fees, memberships and admissions to sports, recreational, or social events, lessons or instructions, movie rentals, televisions, mobile devices, sound equipment, pets, hobbies, toys, playground equipment, photographic equipment, film processing, video games, and recreational, exercise, or sports equipment.” If there’s a debate about whether extracurricular activities are covered under this definition, it’s a smart idea to consult your family law attorney. There’s a chance that you may have to take this up in court, with no clear guidance on how the judge might rule – so you want to know all your options, in case you can amicably settle this issue with your co-parent.
Tips for Creating an Activities Schedule With Your Co-Parent
If you’re concerned about having to co-parent with a packed activity schedule, here are tips that can smooth out the process:
1. Communication: This is priority number one if co-parenting will succeed for your children. If there’s an activity you really want your child to participate in, then you should share your feelings. Allow your child to air their opinions about what activities they would (or wouldn’t) want to participate in after school and on the weekends.
Also, if you think there’s any important detail that might impact your co-parent’s schedule, be sure to communicate this to them. Over-sharing is better than not communicating enough. Finally, consider using a shared calendar – like an online app – so that you can update it in real time.
2. Compromise: Keep in mind this process won’t go your way 100% of the time. Compromise will be key here. Realize there will likely come a time when you have to give up a little bit of your visitation time so your children can participate in their extracurricular activity. The same is true when it comes to giving up your time to travel with your child to these activities.
3. Include Your Co-Parent: You can be sure there will be tension, and stress for your child, if only one parent is on board. Both parents should attend practices and meetings, as well as performances and games.
4. Plan to Re-Evaluate: Sports activities change about every three months, as basketball season gives way to baseball season, which gives way to football season. Your child may also just grow out of an activity or lose interest in it and want to do something else. That’s why you should be sure to re-evaluate your plan regularly with your co-parent to ensure that your child is getting what’s best for them.
Don’t Let Your Child Miss Out On Extracurriculars
Extracurricular activities such as sports or arts programs are an essential part of a child’s life. It is these activities that will help them grow and mature into a confident young adult who’s ready to thrive on their own. It’s important, therefore, that you and your ex set aside your past differences and help encourage these activities as you co-parent together.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
At Smedley Law Group, our family law attorneys have helped families across South Jersey resolve child custody and parenting time issues for decades. We specialize in working through these complicated issues to help our clients resolve their goals. We know the right questions to ask and the arguments that could work in your favor and help you create a better co-parenting relationship. To learn more, call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with a child custody specialist at Smedley Law Group today. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.