Legal Custody Area
Although many do not realize it, one often contentious issue regarding child custody involves the child's extracurricular activities. Questions regarding whether the child will participate in football, ballet, baseball, or tap, and what limits, if any, should be placed on a child's involvement in extracurricular activities often lead to disagreements between parents. Additionally, scheduling issues and the possibility that an activity sponsored by one parent may infringe on the other parents parenting time may also lead to contention. Although agreement between the parents regarding their child's extracurricular activities is ideal, it is crucial for a determination to be made regarding which parent will have final decision-making authority regarding this issue in the likely event the parties disagree.
Often, a child's extracurricular activities are closely related to his or her education and schooling. Thus, the parent awarded final decision-making authority concerning education often seeks final decision-making authority concerning extracurricular activities as well. Due to the close relationship of these two issues, it is often the case that the parent awarded final decision-making authority concerning education is also granted final decision-making authority concerning extracurricular activities as well. However, this outcome is not guaranteed as legal custody issues, including final decision-making authority, are always subject to Georgia's best interests of the child analyses. See O.C.G.A. §19-9-3.
Practice Pointer - Limits on Extracurricular Activities
To aid in disputes regarding final decision-making for extracurricular activities, the courts have imposed several interesting ideas that might help you resolve problems in this area. For example, in one case, a judge allowed one parent to pick out the fall activities and the other one to pick out activities for the rest of the year. As another example, a court allowed each parent to pick one activity and placed a limit of no more than two activities at a time for that child.
Decisions made by parents awarded final decision-making authority regarding their child's extracurricular activities often include, among others, decisions on whether:
- the child will participate in any extracurricular activities
- which activities the child will join,
- how many activities the child will join,
- when the child is allowed to participate in said activities, and
- whether any limits will be placed on the activities.
Although no parent wishes to limit their children, limits on the type, number, and timing of extracurricular activities are often necessary due to academic concerns, considerations that must be made to comply with visitation and custody schedules, and the costs associated with certain activities.
An important issue for many parents is payment for children's extracurricular activities. Payment of the expenses associated with extracurricular activities may be considered in the child support calculation. See Turner v. Turner, 285 Ga. 866 (2009) and O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15 (i). Alternatively, if the parties agree, the parties may share the expenses associated with extracurricular activities either equally or otherwise. However, Georgia case law suggests that although the parties may agree to share the costs associated with their child's extracurricular activities, a court may not mandate the parent obligated to pay child support to additionally pay a portion of the expenses related to the extracurricular activity costs, absent that party's agreement to do so. See Turner, Supra.