I have joint custody of my son. My child's mother always causes my son to miss swimming lessons, scout meetings, basketball practices, etc., during her parenting time.
My son wants to participate in these extracurricular activities. Is this a form of negligence on her part?
I do not practice in Tennessee, so therefore I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of that state. Cordell & Cordell does have attorneys licensed in Tennessee who would be happy to set up a consultation with you.
Extracurricular activities can be a source of contention for many divorced or unmarried parents, who often disagree about the number or type of activities the child is involved in. Many states allow parents to specifically outline how they will deal with extracurricular activities in their parenting plan.
Sometimes, parents will agree to limit the number of classes the child can be enrolled in, or have specific rules for who will transport the child back and forth from extracurricular activities during the other parent’s visitation. If parents cannot come to an agreement on this issue in their parenting plan, the judge will often rule on it if presented.
In general, each parent usually has the right to decide what activities the child engages in during his or her period of possession.
However, many courts have begun to realize that in order for a child to participate in some activities at all, they have to do during both parents’ periods of possession, so this is not a workable plan. For this reason, courts are beginning to place a greater emphasis on outlining rules for extracurricular activities than in the past.
While it is unlikely that a judge would find your child’s mother’s behavior to meet the legal standard of neglect (those findings usually only occur when the child experiences actual, physical harm to his body or is left alone, unfed, etc.) her actions certainly are not those of the ideal parent and could be an argument for increasing the amount of time you are in possession of your son.
My advice is to first see if your ex will allow you to transport your son back and forth to these activities. It could be that she does not want to spend the time that is needed to devote to these activities, but would be fine if you transported him.
If she still refuses to let your son participate during her periods of possession, my advice is to consult an attorney licensed in your state to see if you can have your parenting plan modified, either by agreement or by a judge, to include specific provisions about extracurricular activities, and possibly even trying to gain a greater amount of parenting time with your son.
Rachel A. Brucks is a Staff Attorney in the Fort Worth, Texas office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Brucks is licensed in the state of Texas. Ms. Brucks received her Bachelors degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her Masters in Literature and Gender Studies from Texas State University, San Marcos; and received her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodists University, Dallas.