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Handling Extracurricular Activities During Summer Parenting Time


Summer is a time when children can explore their interests, learn new skills, and engage in extracurricular activities. However, for divorced or separated parents sharing custody or parenting time, managing these activities can present unique challenges. Balancing the desire for your child to participate in enriching experiences while adhering to the custody schedule requires careful planning and effective communication. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate extracurricular activities during summer parenting time.

Infographic for managing children's summer activities by divorced or separated parents, featuring three main sections: 1) A smartphone displaying a co-parenting app next to a calendar, representing planning and communication; 2) Two parents, one male and one female, sitting at a small table discussing a shared calendar, symbolizing cooperation; 3) A mediation session depicted with three silhouettes around a table, illustrating conflict resolution. The design is minimalist with soft colors and ample white space.

Plan and Communicate in Advance:

You may assume it is up to you to decide in which classes and activities your child will participate this summer because you were always the one to decide, or you may exercise the majority of parenting time. However, summers are different.  Coaches often will determine the practice days during the first practice, it will be unclear when the games will be, and some courses will require activities to be completed at home.  In other words, in the summer, you often will need the other parent’s assistance and cooperation.

Ways to Cooperate:

Start by discussing your child’s interests, potential activities, and the associated time commitments. Create a shared calendar or use a co-parenting app to track and update schedules, ensuring that both parents are aware of the activities and can plan accordingly. Look for opportunities to collaborate with your co-parent to accommodate your child’s extracurricular activities. Consider alternative custody arrangements or adjust schedules to accommodate specific activity days or times. This may involve temporarily modifying the custody schedule or allowing the non-custodial parent to attend and participate in some activities. By working together, you can prioritize your child’s interests and encourage their participation.

Important Things to Consider:

Which parent will pay the fees for the class or activity? Parents often call our attorneys assuming the custodial parent needs to pay 100% of the activity.  Sometimes parents feel that the parent who suggests the activity should pay. “He wants our son to play football; he can pay for the equipment fees”.  Ultimately, it is best to reach an agreement.  If you cannot or will not reach an agreement, you are left with two options: the other parent may cancel the activity which will hurt your child or one of you has to file a motion which takes time and legal fees. More importantly, if you refuse to cooperate, you should anticipate that the co-parent will also fail to cooperate regarding other extracurricular disputes.

It will also be helpful if you can agree on a transportation schedule.  If the other parent is done with work at 4:00 PM and you work until 5:00 PM, and practice starts at 4:30 PM, you have a great opportunity to ask the co-parent to step up to the plate (and get some additional bonding time with your child).  If the co-parent refuses, document the refusal in case you ever have a future custody dispute.

Keep Open Lines of Communication with Activity Providers:

Maintaining open lines of communication with the providers of your child’s extracurricular activities is crucial. Inform them about your custody arrangement and any scheduling constraints. Discuss options for makeup sessions or alternative participation arrangements if your child is unable to attend due to custody transitions. Building a cooperative relationship with activity providers helps ensure a smoother experience for everyone involved.

Seek Mediation if Necessary:

In some cases, disagreements regarding extracurricular activities may arise between co-parents. If you find it challenging to reach a resolution, consider seeking mediation to help facilitate constructive discussions and find mutually beneficial solutions. A neutral third party can provide guidance and support in navigating complex situations, ensuring that your child’s interests remain at the forefront.

Obtain a Court Order Well in Advance:

Work towards an agreement well in advance of the activity allowing sufficient time for court involvement.  Although reaching an agreement is always the best course of action, if a co-parent always refuses to cooperate, then it may be in your child’s best interest to get a court order. Sometimes it takes time to get on the court’s schedule, and sometimes the court will require an additional hearing before making a decision.

Support Each Other’s Involvement:

Recognize and support the involvement of both parents in your child’s extracurricular activities. Share the equipment between the two homes.  Share the schedule with the other parent and provide the other parent with email notification sign up information. If the other parent organized the activity, still attend practices and games.  If you organized the activity, invite the other parent to attend games or performances. 

Your ultimate goal is to raise a confident and successful adult.  Even if your co-parent exhibits poor behavior on occasion, excluding them from the child’s life will also harm the child.  If you have a dispute about your child’s extracurricular activities, give our family law attorneys a call at 616-285-0808.  We look forward to helping you be the best parent possible for your child.