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Child's Wishes in Determining the Parenting schedule.

by Wes Cowell, updated 26 June 2016 -- suggest a correction 


Parenting schedules usually are built around Mom's and Dad's calendars; but kids have schedules, too. What do you do when the child's schedule conflicts with the parenting schedule or when one parent "books the child's dance card?"  Need advice? Callleave your info, or scheduleschedule a consult.


The most common, recurring struggle for divorced or never-married parents is reconciling a parenting schedule with a child's constantly changing lineup of extra-curricular activities.  Extra-curricular schedules for practices, rehearsals, games, tournaments, recitals, etc. change every few months.  What are parents to do?


Extra-Curriculars Take Priority Over Parenting Time:  The general rule is that the child's extra-curricular schedule takes priority over the parenting schedule.  If practice falls on Mom's time, Mom takes the kids to practice.  If a game falls on Dad's time, Dad gets the kids to the game on time . . . and they stay for the whole game.


IRMO Charous:  David and Jodi Charous married in 1984, had two kids, and divorced in 2003.  They belong in the Divorce Hall of Fame.  Seven months after the divorce was final, David complained that the kids hadn't been able to spend even a SINGLE night at his place under an alternating-weekends-plus-one-overnight-per-week-plus-alternating-holidays schedule.  Even when they did come over they had problems staying.  Jodi wasn't helpful.  The trial court boiled it down to this:  "I'll say it on the record now, you're both bad parents."


The court denied David's contempt petition but that was reversed on appeal. Here's what the Second District Appellate Court had to say:


Jodi initially argues that the evidence introduced at trial established that the children were unable to regularly visit with David primarily because of their busy extracurricular schedules. Relying on In re:  Marriage of LaTour, 241 Ill.App.3d 500, 181 Ill.Dec. 865, 608 N.E.2d 1339, (Ill. App. 4th Dist., 1993) Jodi argues that she had the authority under the parenting agreement to select the children's extracurricular activities and that scheduled visitations should not preclude the children from engaging in those activities.


We reject Jodi's assertions that the children's participation in extracurricular activities excused her non-compliance with the visitation provisions of the parenting agreement. . . . While the children may have been engaged in daily activities during the weekend, we see no reason . . . that David could not have been responsible for transporting the children to these activities as part of his visitation. . . . 


. . . 


In the event that the children's extracurricular activities unduly interfered with Jodi's ability to comply with the court-ordered visitation schedule, then the appropriate action that Jodi should have taken was to seek modification of the trial court's visitation order rather than to ignore its provisions.

IRMO Charous, 368 Ill. App. 3d 99, 855 N.E.2d 953, 305 Ill. Dec. 437 (2d Dist., 2006)



Long-Distance Conflicts:  What happens when the parents live far from each other?  Say, the kids are with Dad but the son must get to a baseball practice near Mom's home?  The excursion will require a two-hour drive to the practice, a two-hour practice, and a two-hour return to Dad's.  The day's shot.  The rule reverses here.  The extra-curricular schedule is not necessarily gospel and a kid should be allowed to miss a scheduled activity once in a while -- within reason -- in order to maintain a connection with the other parent through the parenting schedule. 


IRMO LaTour:  Cynthia LaTour and Paul Duschinsky divorced in 1985 after seven years in a marriage that begat four children.  Cynthia moved with the kids to Quincy and Paul moved to Chicago -- more than 300 miles and five hours away.  They agreed to meet in McLean for transfers whenever Paul wanted, so long as he gave Cynthia adequate notice.  Cynthia didn't cooperate, so Paul went to court to ask for a parenting schedule to include a specific weekend each month, alternating holidays, and summer vacation time.

Paul said: I see them so infrequently my time with them should be prioritized over extra-curricular activities.


Cynthia said: Practice is practice and schedules need to be followed.


Who wins?  The 4th District Appellate Court said: 


The children now range in age from 9 to 14. Their busy and appropriate extracurricular schedules need not dictate visitation, but a visitation schedule also should not dictate or unduly restrict their activities. It would be reasonable for the court to provide that children with extracurricular activities scheduled on Duschinsky's weekend for visitation need not attend that visitation. Many activities are seasonal, or limited in duration, and ought not preclude any child from participating in most of the scheduled visitations.

In re:  Marriage of LaTour, 241 Ill.App.3d 500, 181 Ill.Dec. 865, 608 N.E.2d 1339, (Ill. App. 4th Dist., 1993) (emphasis added).


Booking the Dancecard:  When parental decision-making is vested solely in one parent, that parent may schedule the child's E-Cs to the extent that the parenting schedule is, effectively, blocked.  Most judges apply a rule-of-thumb:  the child may be enrolled in two extra-curricular activities per season; one athletic (soccer, baseball, etc.) and one cultural (piano, chess club, etc.).  This isn't in the law and you won't find it in any cases -- its just a rule of thumb some judges apply.


If you're in a jam because the other parent overbooked your child's E-Cs, or if you want to book more E-Cs but the other parent is objecting, call my office -- you're probably heading to court.



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