what to do if your ex won't let children play sports

Can Your Ex Keep Your Child From Playing Sports?

Goldberg JonesChild Custody, Featured Posts 8 Comments

Kids these days are more active than ever before. Between school and various extracurricular activities, it’s amazing how busy and cluttered children’s schedules become. These are vital outlets for exercise, socialization, and plain old fun. Playing sports frequently forms a large piece of this puzzle.

Often these pursuits are so important they wind up as part of the parenting plan after divorce. But what can you do if your ex tries to interfere and stop your child from playing sports?

We use sports as an example, but you can substitute nearly any other activity in reality. Maybe it’s football or soccer, but it can easily be dance class, martial arts, or chess club. Whatever the specific activity, the regulations stay similar.

Parents have all kinds of objections to their children playing sports. It really depends on the sport, the child, their age, and many other factors.

  • Parents may protest because of the possibility of injury.
  • Some worry it takes focus away from academics and education.
  • Maybe one parent simply doesn’t want to schlep across town for practice three nights a week.

There are as many reasons to stop your child from playing sports as there are children who play sports. Many are compelling, others not so much.

Related Reading: Fantasy Sports and How They Help Kids 

Parenting Plans & Youth Sports

In many cases, it’s up to the parents to decide whether or not to stop their child from playing sports. Ideally, you and your ex can discuss what’s truly best for your kids. But some individuals take it upon themselves to make this decision for everyone.

For example, maybe your son plays baseball, but your ex prevents him from participating on visitation weekends.

Parenting plans include clauses for all kinds of things. If an activity is important to your child, you can even write in provisions prohibiting either parent from interfering with their ability to participate.

When that’s the case, and your ex tries to stop your child from playing sports, you may have legal recourse.

If there’s a valid, court-approved parenting plan in place, your ex must adhere to the terms. One party or the other can’t simply choose to stop following the order. It may seem extreme, but if your ex continues to violate the parenting plan, you can even file a motion for contempt.

Related Reading: 12 Dos and Don’ts to Protect Custody and Visitation

Motion for Contempt

In short, a motion for contempt is an official request that your ex cooperate with the court order.

When it comes to divorce cases, these often involve child custody, parenting time, child support, or property issues. The goal is to get the other person to adhere to the terms and conditions in the future. Sometimes, just the threat of legal action is enough to get them to play ball.

A motion for contempt may have lasting repercussions, so it’s not to be undertaken lightly. There can be financial penalties or even jail time in severe cases.

You don’t need to call your attorney if your ex makes your son miss one football game. This is more of a last resort after you’ve exhausted all other reasonable options.

Related Reading: How Washington Calculates Child Support

Modifying Parenting Plans

If you no longer agree with the terms and particulars of the parenting plan, it is possible to modify the child custody order. Washington parents seeking to change the terms must file a petition to modify the parenting plan, which identifies the intended alterations.

In order for the courts to grant this request, you must show a substantial change in circumstances.

Basically, the modification must be a necessary step to protect the best interests of the child.

Unless the change is minor in nature, you’ll most likely have to appear at an “adequate cause” hearing. This is where the petitioning parent lays out their case and attempts to show there is a significant reason to change the parenting plan.

Many factors play into a court’s decision to grant or deny a petition to modify a parenting plan.

A judge may alter a custody order if:

  • Both parents agree.
  • There’s already been a significant change from the original plan.
  • The child is in harm’s way.
  • There’s a history of custodial interference.
  • The other parent has previously failed to comply with the parenting plan and has been found in contempt.

Hopefully, if your ex tries to stop your child from playing sports—or really block them from any court-approved activity—it won’t necessitate legal action.

Ideally, this is something best decided with a rational conversation between two adults. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Other steps then become necessary.

Related Reading: 4 Types Of Child Custody

Comments 8

  1. I have 2 children that i truly love with all my heart. Without getting into all the past arguments, I pay full child support, medical, dental, sport fees, uniforms, basically everything that is needed to participate. My question is when is enough enough. I’m a Firefighter in MA. The pay is about 86k per year minus taxes, $400.00 per week for my children, Dental, & medical deductions. Gas to and from as many games as I can get to. Which is most. The kids go to school 5 days per week, CCD classes, and then the sports. Some of these are very expensive. Mom has to have everything Under Armour brand for them. In between regular sports then comes the week long sporting camps. At times the kids are playing 2 sports at a time. I’m trying to keep my head above water. My truck is 13 years old, my house needs major work. I hardly ever get to take my son and she says our daughter is to afraid to come without her mommy. Mom has not upheld her end of the court order. I have no money left to fight for my time with the children. I miss my daughter like crazy, she lets our son come about once every 10 days. She has never given me my every other weekend nor my every other holiday. The 2 weeks in the summer will never happen. My ex wife has a new home in a lovely town, family beach house in Rye N.H. , brand new S.U.V. and so on. She is a stay at home mom with a side daycare business. Many of her clients pay cash weekly. This I know as I was married to her. $50-$ 65 per day per child 5 days per week, 7 different children on those 5 days per week. This can’t be proven as most of it is in cash. This coming February she will be taking our two children and her child from a previous relationship on a 10 day cruise to Bahama’s , Turks, and I forget the third destination. Her parents give her money as her dad had a wonderful government job. Traveled all over the world. My parents also contribute to everything they can. They are trying to help me fix things in my home. Rotting wood on thresholds, broken pipes to dishwasher. Not beatification just necessary fixes. I just want to know when enough is enough. She has a very very good lawyer. I can’t afford any lawyer @ this time. Any advise would be great.

    1. Post

      Stephen, thanks for reaching out. That’s a complicated situation. I passed your contact information along to Ken Alan, our managing attorney. He will reach out to you shortly and hopefully be able to offer some help.

  2. Great article, I really like that you stress conversation before contempt. I have two kids that live with my ex. One of the kids started playing basketball in school and his grades went from passing to failing. I sent an email to my ex saying that I did not want the boy practicing or playing sports until he raised his failing grade(s) to “C” or better. My kid is still playing sports and still failing math, my ex will not respond to my request and the boy is taking advantage of the position I am in sadly. I’d rather not pursue the emotionally and financially expensive contempt route if possible, any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hi Derik, thanks for reaching out! That sounds like a tough situation. Most things with kids can be delicate, can’t they? I passed your contact information on to Ken Alan, our managing attorney. He will be in touch soon and hopefully be able to offer some suggestions on how to proceed.

  3. My ex refuses to take our son to his karate events when it is their “weekend” and this is very disappointing to my son. Is there any way to make them take our son to these events? What legal recourse do I have in this situation?

    1. Post

      That’s a tough situation, Jay, I feel your frustration. We can’t really get into it in this forum, but I passed your contact information on to our managing attorney, Ken Alan. He’ll reach out to you shortly and give you an idea of your options, at no charge. Hopefully, then you’ll at least have a place to start.

  4. This was an interesting read. I have a question regarding my brother. (Same mom, different dad) his parents split up and dad is remarried. My brother is 12 and does jiujitsu with my husband and I. He is sponsored by our school so that it does not cost anything. My mom saved to buy his GI and belt and he goes regularly on her weeks. When it comes to his dad’s weeks he can’t go. It literally does not cost his dad ANYTHING and all of us have offered rides to and from so that his dad does not have to do anything at all, just let him go. He just refuses. He’s not against the sport as he has no problem with him doing it on my mom’s week. It is devastating my little brother. He has to miss his promotion because it’s on his dad’s week. His dad has previously agreed to let him go and has even promised my brother over and over again that he will take him but never ever does. Is there anything at all that could change this?

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