No one likes spending their weekends filled with AYSO [All Your Saturdays Occupied – as I used to call it when my kids were young], dance classes, birthday parties, and running around like a chauffer, but for most of us, this is how we spend our children’s early years. However for children of divorce, time spent on their activities can become a matter of litigation and contention between the parents.
Accusations often fly that the non-custodial parent should not be required to facilitate playdates or take the children to activities or birthday parties because it is “better for the children to be with the parent” than with their friends. Some parents enroll the children in too many activities in order to place a burden on the non-custodial parent. A court will consider both of these scenarios when determining how to rule on whether or not a parent should be required to take the children to their activities.
Courts often have a mixed approach when it comes to children’s activities. There are some courts that will rule that the children must be able to attend the activities regardless of whose custodial time it is. There are other courts that will rule that the parent dictate how the time is to be spent when the child is in their custody.
Sadly, in all these cases the child is the one who misses out. There are no sports teams which will allow an every other weekend soccer player. This becomes increasingly more difficult to navigate when the children become older and the courts will often consider the wishes of the child to spend time with their friends and to allow them to be able to participate in the activities that they enjoy.
The courts will look at what is in the best interests of the child. While it is important to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, there are benefits to having children that are engaged in extracurricular activities. Most colleges these days want to see a well-rounded student and will look at what activities high school students are involved in. Students who are busy in the afternoons are less likely to get into trouble than students who are not.
Rather than having the court dictate what a parent should be doing during their custodial time, a common sense approach is probably the best for the children. Even though a parent’s time with the children may only be on alternating weekends, the children will be able to share that time doing something that they enjoy. This will lessen the likelihood that in the adolescent years a child will decided that they don’t want to spend time with their parent.
If you were committed to taking your children to activities during the marriage, or you at least supported your spouse in allowing the children to attend, the children should not have to sacrifice what they enjoy doing just because their parents are no longer together. If you are the parent who wants the children to be in activities, take a step back and consider the time of the other parent. Sometimes a custody evaluator or an attorney for the children can assist the parents in coming to an agreement as to what activities the children should be allowed to attend.
If both parents are working together for the best interests of their children, then the wishes and needs of the children should be considered when discussing whether the children should attend activities on the non-custodial parent’s weekend. Activities should not be a battle between the parents, but should be memories that each parent is creating for their children.
My children are now all in high school and college and all the years of dance recitals, baseball games, practices, and award ceremonies are fond memories which we cherish. They are grateful that they had the opportunity to experience those events. Before we know it our children are grown and gone, but the memories that we create in their childhood are there for a lifetime.