Legal Question in Family Law in New Jersey

Question regarding joint-custody and child activities

My ex-husband and I have joint custody of our 8 year old daughter;however, I am classified as the custodial parent. My ex-husband refuses to allow my daughter to participate in extra-curricular activities that happen to fall on his days with our daughter. He is telling me that should I register her, then he expects me to switch our schedule so that the days she has an activity become ''my days'' and he will take her on days of unplanned activities. I have already changed the schedule in the past to accomodate him and feel it isn't fair to keep rearranging her life because of his schedule. Our daughter wants to play soccer, but the schedules aren't created until after all the children have been registered. There is no way for me to plan every activity on my scheduled days with her. Does he have legal ground to prevent her from participating in activities I register her for if some of those activities fall on his days?

Asked on 5/04/05, 10:53 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Robert Gleaner Robert A. Gleaner, P.C.

Re: childrens' activities

I have seen judges go both ways. Some feel that the extra-curricular activities are more important and require both parents to get them to all activities; others say that it is up to the parent to decide what activities the child will attend when the child is with that parent. Quite frankly, I believe the first answer above is the better one; however, you never know what a judge will do. If you feel strongly about it, you should file a Motion to ask the Court to enforce the extra-curricular schedule. Keep in mind that this advice is based purely on the little bit of information that you have given to me. There certainly may be other factors that would change my opinion. Further, no one can rely on advice from an attorney who has not been retained. Since it appears that you have not retained an attorney, you may want to contact a Family Law attorney (either me or someone else) to discuss your matter in more detail. Only then will you be able to rely on the advice. If you call me, [856-546-8010] mention Law Guru and your first one hour consultation will be free. Good luck! Rob Gleaner

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Answered on 5/04/05, 11:04 am
Drew Hurley Law Offices of Drew M. Hurley

Re: Question regarding joint-custody and child activities

The general rule applied by most judges is that the custodial parent can make scheduling decisions concerning the child's activities, and that the non-custodial parent must assist in taking the child to and from such activities if they occur on a visitation day. The basis behind that is that both parents have the responsibility to transport children, just as they would if they were still married. Further, that the child should not be made to suffer by virtue of the divorce. Oftentimes, non custodial parents balk at this in that they feel that they should have unencumbered time -- play time. However, it is not the parent's feelings that count, but rather what is in the child's best interests. I suggest that you consult with an experienced matrimonial/family law attorney in your area to establish a workable plan to ensure that your daughter's schedule is in her best interests.

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Answered on 5/04/05, 3:18 pm
Alan Albin Alan S. Albin, Attorney at Law

Re: Question regarding joint-custody and child activities

I found your question phrased in an interesting manner. I have reviewed my colleagues' responses and do not generally disagree with them. However, the general focus in these situations should be one of flexibility, on both sides. Regardless of what the law says or does not say, I could sympathize with a non-custodial parent who balks at losing his time with the child on his visitation days because the custodial parent scheduled activities on the non-custodial parent's visitation days. Have you tried to explain the situation to the soccer team or league? When you signed your daughter up, did you explain which days she might not be available, and simply request that her practices be on the non-visitation days? In other words, I would have an easier time seeing your side of it if there was some indication from you that you had tried to anticipate and reasonably accomodate your ex's situation. Obviously, your ex feels that you are using the extracurriculars as a "ploy" to deprive him of visitation time. Did you sit down and discuss the soccer scheduling with your ex prior to enrolling your child? Another solution would simply be to agree that your husband could have extra, informal visitation time with the child (i.e. maybe an extra day or half-day, whatever) to compensate for the time lost for the soccer practices.

The clincher is your last sentence, in which the scenario changes from a dispute over one activity--soccer--to multiple activities.

I would suggest you sit down with your daughter and tell her as follows: "Honey, I know you like soccer, but daddy wants to see you on the days you get to visit him. Daddy feels like the soccer practices take away from the time he gets to spend with you. I agree that having you spend as much time as possible with daddy is more important than playing soccer. Why don't we tell your daddy that you would like to play soccer on those days, but that you love him, so you will let him decide whether he wants to take you to soccer or whether you should do something else with him."

On the other hand, this is probably a fantasy on my part--if you could deal with it that way, you probably wouldn't have gotten divorced in the first place, right?

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Answered on 5/07/05, 3:44 pm

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