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The Playbook for Co-Parenting Peacefully Through the Extracurricular Chaos


Co-parenting can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to extracurricular activities. Child custody disputes often arise between parents regarding their child’s participation in activities outside of school hours. The conflict scene becomes even more heated when one parent tries to monopolize the child’s time and prevent the other parent from participating in extracurricular activities.

The mere thought of missing out on important events or being denied access to your child’s interests is enough to frustrate any parent, and some parents become quite enraged. It is frustrating when co-parents cannot agree on what activities their children should attend, how often they should participate, or who should pay for them.

But this conflict puts parents between a rock and a hard place: either engage in the conflict to reach a resolution, ignore the conflict and hope for the best with the risk that the conflict boils over during the practice or game, or avoid the extracurricular activities altogether even though that will ultimately hurt your child.

We suggest that you pursue an agreement, and we’ve addressed this is one of our other blogs: LINK.  If you cannot reach an agreement during your own negotiations or mediation, then obtaining a court order may be your next best option.  Your child should not be aware of these preparatory steps, and your ultimate goal should be to give your child the best opportunities. 

If you reached that agreement or obtained the court order, and your ex appears at the activities and starts a fight or creates a scene, you are in a difficult situation because you have limited time to think about your options, and we’d like to address these situations beforehand allowing you to be prepared.

If you are the frustrated parent because the co-parent did not follow the agreement or court order, or the co-parent is behaving poorly in general, ignore it.  Document the problem but address is after the event.  Starting a discussion during the event will not likely result in an improvement of your ex’s behavior. 

Your first line of defense is to stay away from the co-parent.  The field or the audience section is usually big enough for parents to sit far apart.  Bring a friend or parent because having a witness present may prevent your ex from creating a scene.  If not, then at least you avoid a ‘he said – she said’ situation in court.  If you did not bring someone with you, at least check who was sitting near you to record their contact information in case there is a dispute of facts about the event.  Keep in mind that most people do not like to become involved in child custody or parenting time disputes; so, let them enjoy the game as much as possible.

If the co-parent is creating a scene anyway, you will be faced with the difficult task of determining when to enforce some boundaries.  If the co-parent’s behavior becomes obnoxious, walk away.  State that you are willing to discuss the issue after the game, but now is not the time or place, and walk away.  Do not engage any more. If the co-parent behaves poorly towards a referee, coach, or teacher, ignore it.  They can fight that fight. Your ultimate goal is to avoid harm to yourself or your child and provide your child with an enjoyable experience.  Moreover, you are setting a good example for your child how to manage conflict.

Immediately after the event, write down notes.  It is easy to forget important deadlines while in a stressful situation.

Lastly, you need to take action to avoid this in the future.  Write the coach or teacher a note apologizing and provide what you will do next time to avoid this situation. Don’t involve the coach in your fight; they don’t care what your ex did to anger you. Go get some counseling sessions. The counselor can provide you with tools how to handle your inappropriate ex or how to keep your cool when your ex is absolutely unreasonable.

If your ex was inappropriate and does not apologize and it has been a recurring problem, you may need to seek the court’s assistance to create some boundaries.  This may mean that the co-parent may only attend some activities, must stay away from you, or if the problem is severe, the co-parent may be prohibited from attending events.

Always keep your child’s best interests front and center even if that means that you have to suffer through conflict while keeping your child’s experience pleasant.  If you need advice on how to deal with conflict during extracurricular activities or need help with mediation or obtaining a court order, please give our family law attorneys a call at 616-285-0808.