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. Sports frequently form 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’re going to use sports as an example, but in reality, you can substitute nearly any other activity. Maybe it’s football or soccer, but it can easily be dance class, martial arts, or chess club. Whatever the specific activity, the regulations are 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. They 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.
Parenting Plans and Sports
In many cases, it’s up to the parents to decide whether or not to stop your 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 example, maybe your son plays baseball, but your ex prevents him from participating on visitation weekends.
Parenting plans can 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.
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 options.
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 been a significant change from the original plan, if the child is in harm’s way, if there’s a history of custodial interference, or if the other parent has previously failed to comply with the parenting plan and 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. In many cases, this is something best decided with a rational conversation between two adults. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
If you have questions about your parenting plan, contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.