Most children participate in some sort of extracurricular activity at some point in their childhood. These activities can range from soccer to ballet to horseback riding, and can provide excellent enrichment and exercise for children. When the parents of the child have divorced, however, are the parents required to agree on which activities a child will participate in? As activities can be costly, it’s also important to understand who will bear the cost.
As with medical decision making, the first issue when determining which parent gets to make the decision on which activities the child will participate in is whether the parents share joint legal custody or if one parent has sole legal custody. The vast majority of New Jersey divorces result in joint legal custody. In that case, the parents need to coordinate and work together to attempt to reach an agreement on which activities the child will be enrolled in. If one parent makes a unilateral decision to enroll the child in a particular activity or sport, the court can look at several factors to determine whether the child will be permitted to continue on in that activity. One factor is whether the other parent has a history of denying requests for the child to participate in activities. More important is whether the activity will take up any of the parenting time of the non-consenting parent. Finally, the over-arching issue is always whether the activity is in the best interest of the child.
New Jersey child support guidelines provide that costs for many extracurricular activities are already included in child support payment. The guidelines state that entertainment fees are part of what child support is designed to pay for. Entertainment is defined as those expenses used for sports, lessons, and the like as well as the equipment that goes along with that. Therefore, if the parent receiving child support wishes to sign the child up for a sport, careful consideration should be given to the expenses surrounding the activity, as well as the cost of necessary equipment, and whether the cost is within the household budget.
On occasion, a child may be truly phenomenal at her chosen activity. When a child displays exceptional talent, often extra lessons or equipment is required to help her excel and develop her talent. In such a case, it is possible for the paying parent to request that extra funds be paid over and above regular child support to help share these costs
We have extensive experience with helping our clients unravel the ins and outs of planning their child’s extracurricular activities in the framework of their custody order, and helping understand which parent has the ability to make these decisions. Call us at(732) 479-4711
and we will review your case with you and help determine if the extracurricular decisions for your child are being made in accordance with your court order.