Kids’ Activities and Divorce
August 9, 2018
BY: Francesca O'Cathain, Esq.
Common problems for divorced parents when planning kids’ activities
“Mom, this fall I want to do soccer, two dance classes, travel basketball, Girl Scouts— pleaaaaaa-ssssse!” Sound familiar? If you’re a parent with a school-aged kid, it probably sounds all too familiar.
Your thought process is probably similar to mine: how will I get you there, and how much is this going to cost me?
It can be particularly difficult for divorcing and divorced parents. I hear about it every day from my clients because sports and activities for kids are very different these days, with the addition of club sports and competitive teams.
The most common questions I receive from clients on this issue are: “Who is responsible for paying for this?” and “What if we don’t agree on whether our child should participate in the activity?”
What The Law Says
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines include sports, lessons or instructions, hobbies, recreational exercise and sports equipment as an entertainment expense. The Guidelines were written based on costs of $60.00 or $80.00 for recreational sports. But what about competitive gymnastics or club soccer? My son is a competitive gymnast, and while my husband and I agree that he should compete now, I can see how it can get complicated if one parent doesn’t agree.
Consider the divorced mother of two children who receives $1,200 per month ($14,400 per year) in child support. Both kids want to play competitive soccer, which costs a total of $6,000 per year. But Dad doesn’t want them to play competitive soccer; he prefers recreational soccer. How do we handle that?
Handling Disputes Over Children’s Activities
- Address it in the Marital Settlement Agreement or Consent Order
- The Agreement or Order should state the activities in which the kids are currently enrolled: this establishes a lifestyle history.
- Have an open communication with the other parent on this issue, including agreement before enrolling the kids in sports/activities. This avoids the dispute where a parent seeks payment after enrollment.
- Keep detailed records of these expenses.
And finally, step back and make sure you are doing what’s best for your child. Do the kids want or need to be on a competitive travel team? Will this impact your child’s relationships with the other parent, including their time together? How will the schedule impact everyone’s family life?
As the coaching manual says, don’t expect your child to be as good as you tell people you once were!
Contact The New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC
Although our goal is to resolve your case efficiently and amicably, our New Jersey divorce lawyers have years of experience trying divorce cases. We strive to make the trial process as simple as possible while zealously advocating for you and your positions.