Studies have shown participation in youth sports has many benefits for children. Unfortunately, participation in youth sports can create conflict between divorced parents or parents not otherwise living in the same household.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit, some of my fondest childhood memories are from summer days spent on baseball diamonds and winter afternoons in steamy gyms playing basketball with friends.
As an adult, I still participate in youth sports by volunteering as a coach and umpire in my children’s leagues. At a bare minimum I am always in the stands rooting on my kids and other children I have gotten to know over the years.
Some common dilemmas
So, how exactly does participation in youth sports spill over into family law litigation?
Many times even young children can practice several times per week. Games often occur each and every weekend. Coaches expect children to attend all practices and games. The result is a large commitment of time for the child and the child’s parents.
The problem often becomes how to balance a child’s sporting commitment and a parent’s parenting schedule, especially when a parent only spends time with a child on a relatively limited basis. The more limited a parent’s time, the less likely that parent can sometimes be to relish spending all weekend watching a child from the bleachers.
Other times, each parent places a different emphasis on the child’s participation in sports. It’s not at all uncommon for one parent to expect the other to cancel prior plans to attend a last-minute practice or a game hastily rescheduled due to rain.
The conflict can be further compounded by distance. Take the situation where parents live in different counties. Mom lives in Oldham County. Dad lives in Hardin County. Both counties are considered suburbs of Louisville. However, it can take more than an hour each way to travel between the locales.
Consider the following example
Child lives with mom in Oldham County. Child has parenting time with dad every-other weekend in Hardin County from Friday after school until Monday morning. Child has a baseball tournament in Oldham on dad’s weekend. The weekend commitment consists of practice on Friday evening and games on Saturday and Sunday. Dad picks the child up from school on Friday. He sticks around Oldham until practice is over late Friday. He travels back to Hardin. Early Saturday morning he drives back to Oldham, returns to Hardin on Saturday night, and ...... . Well, you get the picture.
Dad might have other children and a new spouse. Dad might work one of those weekend days. Often the logistics become too much, and in the above example, the father sometimes is forced to simply forfeit his parenting time.
In such situations, family courts often allow make-up parenting time. Other times, family court judges will give a parent additional parenting time during the off season, or other convenient time so as to maximize the amount of time a child is with both parents.
It can be argued that a father forfeiting his time is not in the child’s best interests. But what about the child’s best interests when a parent who simply refuses to take the child to a sporting event during that parent’s time?
As a coach, I can tell you such a situation is bad for the team. It might be upsetting to the child. It can certainly create conflict between the parents. However, it happens frequently and commonly results in one parent seeking an order from a family court judge requiring the other parent to either transport the child to a youth sporting activity or makes arrangements to ensure the child otherwise attends.
The reality for parents with children participating in youth sports is the time demands and level of commitment only increase as the child gets older. Children playing travel baseball or softball practice nearly every day and play year round at locations around the region or country. Children playing on these competitive teams are usually either “all-in or all-out.” There’s no middle ground.
If a family court judge believes participation in youth sports is in the child’s best interests, the parent opposing or wishing to limit the participation is likely to face an uphill battle in court, because, the reality of youth sports limits a judge’s ability to accommodate the wishes of both parents.
Call Jason Dattilo today, 502-584-7217
I have dealt with more than my share of family law disputes involving youth sports. Some have been resolved through negotiation and mediation. Some have resulted in lengthy and contentious hearings. If you are facing a situation where a child’s participation in sports is spilling over into a divorce, custody or visitation case, do not hesitate to call me today.
My name is Jason Dattilo, and I would be honored to serve as your family law attorney.
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