J. Gregory Hatcher | Family Law Attorney
Children naturally are involved in many different activities throughout the school year and the summer. When parents separate and are negotiating a custody and visitation schedule, the issue of children’s activities is frequently discussed.
There is often debate about whether a parent should be required to take his or her child to an activity during visitation.
The parent with less visitation time may argue that this time is already so limited, and instead of taking the child to various activities, he/she should be able to enjoy every moment of that child’s undivided attention.
The counter argument is that the child’s activities help shape and normalize life amidst the separation of his parents. Further, the child’s routine and interests continue when he is with both his mother and his father. Both arguments have merits that are understandable.
Although every case is different, the courts are directed by law to focus on the best interest of the child. Certainly, a child should not be so programmed with activities that he/she cannot spend quality time with both parents. In some cases, the primary custodial parent uses the child’s activities to limit his/her exposure to the other parent or to attempt to coarse the other parent into simply giving up on any efforts to be involved in the child’s life. Unfortunately, the accusation of this behavior is far more prevalent than the reality of such conduct.
In reality, there is usually a reason that one parent is the primary custodian versus the other. Often times the primary custodian is more in tune with the child’s needs, schedules and routine. As such, that parent typically is not trying to harm the relationship of the other parent but is simply trying to maintain routine and focus in the child’s life.
The courts try to strike a balance between a child maintaining involvement in his/her activities and spending time with the other parent. Not every single birthday party must be attended nor must a sleepover or play date usually take precedence over time with a parent. However, the non-custodial parent is wise to remember that the child’s maturity level will dictate how he/she interprets the parent’s actions.
If the child sees visitation with the other parent as a circumstance which always results in missing soccer practice or a friend’s party, then that child will likely harbor resentment for that parent. In addition, other than sleepover parties, the courts encourage both parents to attend and be involved in the activities of their children. Unless the court orders otherwise, a parent is routinely welcomed to visit the child at school, have lunch with that child, and attend practices, games and school performances. In fact, often the limitations of the parent’s time with the child are created solely by the desires and motivation of the parent.
The court considers all of these factors when it decides what the most appropriate schedule of contact and visitation is in the best interest of the child.
Greg Hatcher has extensive experience as a child custody lawyer in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding area. He is a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law and has received the Super Lawyers and “Legal Elite” honors for multiple years.