Divorced or separated parents know that co-parenting is not always easy. You and your co-parent might agree on a custody schedule, but as your child gets older, changing circumstances can bring new challenges.
One of these common challenges involves how to handle custody time when your child is involved in extracurricular activities, particularly sports. As any parent who has been involved with middle or high school sports knows, playing a sport can take up a great deal of a child’s time.
Most sports practices occur after school, which can conflict with a parent’s scheduled custody time. Additionally, games take place at night and away games can sometimes last late into the night or take up almost an entire weekend.
It is natural for a parent whose custody time is shortened due to a child’s involvement with sports to feel angry or resentful about the time they are not spending with their child. However, there are some potential ways to handle this situation.
Make decisions based on your child, not you
First, like most parents, you probably have joint legal custody of your child. Under Pennsylvania law, joint legal custody means that parents have equal rights when it comes to making major decisions on behalf of their child.
Given the cost and time involved, whether a child plays sports is probably going to be considered one of these major decisions. This means your child cannot participate in the sport unless you both agree.
While you could be tempted to say no to your child playing a sport because you will be denied time with them, it is important to keep your child’s best interest in mind.
Pennsylvania custody courts make decisions based on a child’s best interest, and if your child truly wants to participate in a sport, letting them do so will likely be deemed in their best interest.
Therefore, if you refuse to let them play, your co-parent can file a petition with the court and let a judge decide. A judge is likely to side with the parent allowing the sport participation.
Get creative with your custody schedule
However, your feelings are valid. The time investment involved with school sports can seriously strain your custody arrangement. After school custody exchanges and custody time can become much more difficult.
You and your co-parent probably have a custody schedule with set days and times, which will now need modification to accommodate your child’s sports schedule.
Open communication and flexibility with your co-parent can help you modify your custody schedule to maximize each parent’s time with the child, even while coordinating your child’s sports and extracurricular schedule.
Seeing your co-parent at games or activities
Another challenge these situations bring is having to see your co-parent at games or other activities. While you may not be happy about having to see each other, remember your child’s happiness is the priority. Your child probably wants to have both of their parents in the audience.
If you truly cannot handle being in the same place as your co-parent, acknowledge that and think about other solutions. Perhaps you can agree that you will split up the games each of you attend.
These are some general ideas that can help you navigate the complexities after-school activities and sports can bring. Your situation is different from anyone else’s, and a custody attorney can help you develop solutions tailored to you.