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Who Decides What Extracurricular Activities the Kids Can Participate In?

When parents are in a committed relationship (like marriage) they usually discuss and agree on what extracurricular activities the children participate in. Parents consider whether their household can afford the activities, whether the activities are safe, and how much say the child will have regarding whether to participate. Extracurricular activities can include everything from chess club, sports, ski bus, or boy scouts. Decisions regarding extracurricular activities (especially those on an ongoing basis) can have major impacts on the child’s schedule and the parent’s pocketbook. As you can imagine, these decisions can be especially difficult in families where the parents are living separate and apart.

Sometimes, the parenting plan and/or child support order dictate the decision making process for extracurricular activities. It might dictate how the parents split the costs of the extracurricular activities, or how many activities a child may participate at a time. However, in most cases the plan and order say little about extracurricular activities beyond apportioning the cost of such activities between the parties. This often leaves the parties with little guidance when deciding whether a child may participate in an activity. Here are a few considerations for a parent (who is not married to the child’s other parent) thinking of signing a child up for these activities:

  1. Consider the child’s residential schedule. When deciding whether to sign a child up for an activity, look at when the activity is supposed to take place, and then compare that to the child’s residential schedule. If all the meetings are on Wednesday nights, and the child is not scheduled to reside with you on Wednesday night, you will probably need the other parent on board in order for the child to participate.
  2. Consider the cost. Does the order of child support give any guidance as to how the costs should be shared, or is the parent who signs the child up solely responsible? These are important considerations if you are living on a budget. You will also want to make sure that you don’t need the other parent’s consent prior to signing the child up for an activity that you would like to share the cost of.
  3. Consider asking for agreement even if you don’t have to. Sometimes, even where the orders don’t require it, it is best to ask the child’s other parent whether they will agree to the child participating in an extracurricular activity. If a child has expressed interest to you, they may have told the other parent too, and that parent might be happy to share the burden and expense of the extracurricular. *This is obviously not advisable if there is any order restricting communication between you and the other party.

If you are considering terminating your relationship with your child’s other parent, it is probably in your best interest to speak with an attorney about how participation in extracurricular activities will be decided and afforded. If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact us.