Do I Have to Take My Child To An Extra-Curricular Activity Not Agreed Upon When It Occurs During My Parenting Time?
By: John R. Coleman, Jr.
Parents of divorce often have very little problems reaching decisions on extra-curricular activities. However, some parents do whatever he or she wants to do with complete disregard for the other parent’s voice and/or consent. If the other parent registers your child for an extra-curricular activity, and you do not agree to this activity, do you have to take the child during your parenting time?
The case of Earle v. Earle, 312 Ga. App. 139 (Ga. Ct. App. 2011), provides answers to this question. In Earle, the parties were divorced in 2005 in the Superior Court of Fulton County. Per the divorce decree, the couple was granted joint legal and physical custody of the two minor children, with the children residing with the “mother from August 1 through May 31 of each year.” The children stayed with the father “every first, third, and fifth weekend from Thursday after school . . . until Monday morning,” and from June 1 to August 1 each year. The decree also stipulated that the parties were to consult and confer with each other regarding all decisions related to the children’s health, education (including extracurricular activities), and religious upbringing. In the event the parties were unable to reach a consensus on one of these types of issues, the Mother had final decision making authority as to healthcare and the Father had final decision making authority as to religious upbringing. In the event of a disagreement involving the education of the children and their extracurricular activities, the parties were required to go to a parenting counselor . . . to determine whether an agreement could be reached after a good faith discussion. In the event a disagreement could not be reached, the Mother was to have final authority to make educational decisions including which school the children were to attend. The Father had final authority to make decisions regarding extracurricular activities. This is a classic provision often agreed upon by litigants in a divorce case.
In 2009, the Earle judgment was modified solely as to the parenting time under the joint physical arrangement due to the mother’s schedule as an emergency room physician. Under the modified decree, the children resided with the father from August 1 through May 31 of each year and the mother was given custody on the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month from Thursday after school until Monday morning, and from June 1 to August 1. Legal custody remained the same, as did “final decision making authority.”
On May 17, 2010, the father filed a motion for contempt in which he primarily alleged that the mother was in contempt for refusing to allow the daughter to participate in certain golf tournaments during her custodial time, and for continuing to use a golf instructor for the child that he previously fired. He maintained that her actions violated his final decision-making authority related to extracurricular activities per the divorce decree. After a hearing, the transcript of which is not included in the record, the trial court denied the father’s motion, but held that the golf instructor was “forbidden from having any contact” related to golf instruction with the daughter (the father had the final authority to make decisions regarding extracurricular activities). It also held that the mother could utilize her custodial time with the children “in any way she deems appropriate.” The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling.