We have found in most high-conflict custody situation – that this can be one of the most frustrating and most abused situations that there is. We hear innumerable stories about high-conflict ex-partners who deliberately enroll the child(ren) in any number of extracurricular activities, many of which take place during the “normal” parent’s custodial periods. This can cause many problems for the targeted parent. We all want our children to be enrolled in extra-curricular activities that will enrich their lives and promote:
- Competitive spirit.
- Additional learning opportunities.
- Provide for teamwork and sportsmanship.
- Provide the children with fun and entertainment.
- Provide the children with exercise to promote good health and fitness.
In a post-divorce situation, in addition to having meaningful parenting time, we also want to provide for these opportunities for the children. However, financial and logistics will undoubtedly impinge on the number of opportunities our children may have. When forced into a situation that we cannot accommodate for any reason, we may suffer from guilt, among other emotions.
Fortunately, there is a way to close this oft-abused loophole in most custody agreements and that is restrict the opportunities for it to occur. Keep in mind that if you manage to get this clause put into your order/agreement, you’re both bound by it. Further, it will likely require some contact with your high-conflict ex, but as always, the communication should be done in keeping with our low-contact principles.
Your extracurriculars clause may end up looking something like this:
Extracurricular Activities: Each party may sign up the children for sports teams or other extracurricular activities that take place during that parent’s custody time so long as that activity doesn’t require the children or child to participate during the other parent’s custody time absent the other parent’s written agreement.
Now, this clause isn’t put in place so that you or the other parent use it to preclude the registration of the child in any “EC” activity, ever. It’s designed to ensure that you’re not forced to alter your parenting schedule regardless of financial or logistical issues and leave one parent the opportunity to “over-enroll” the child in EC’s as a means to interfere with your parenting time, particularly if you’re in a non-custodial position.
Further, and we’ve done this in our own situation, it doesn’t preclude you from signing the child up for an EC absent the high-conflict parent’s written agreement – it just means that there is no expectation or requirement that one parent or the other ensure participation during their parenting time. We understand that this seems to be to the detriment of the child. We believe that if that is the case, it’s a sacrifice that needs to be made in order to prevent the abuse so often associated with the unilateral “over-enrollment” of the child in extracurricular activities.
It’s also best to include clauses regarding who pays for activities, who is responsible for transportation, specify that each parent should receive a schedule of all activities as well as coach or teacher contact information, and possibly a limit on how many sports/classes each child should be allowed to participate in each season if there is serious risk of over scheduling by one parent.
As always, visit the forums to discuss how best to approach your specific situation.