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Sports Parents and Shared Custody

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As if it isn't challenging enough to co-parent with your Ex, if you have a child or children that play sports it can make it even harder. For parents sharing custody of children, navigating your parenting arrangement with youth sports almost represents a microcosm of all the issues that can come up in co=parenting.

Decision making: My son played baseball with a kid whose dad, someone that had been a longtime coach, switched his son's team in the middle of the season. The son was all for it. The mom, a woman that occasionally came to games and just chatted with other moms during the games, did not like the decision and she and the dad ended up in court over it. Why? Because when you get divorced and you have joint legal custody, you have to make decisions together with your former spouse, and he had not consulted her about the team change. The son ended up being able to stay on the new team, but it became an expensive switch for the dad. Children playing sports, especially when deciding which ones or how many, is something that must be agreed upon by both parents if there is joint custody. With all the controversy about contact sports, some parents are not in favor of their children playing football or hockey. Some may not want their children traveling all the time. Some may not be able to bear the expense. So be sure you speak with your Ex before signing your child up for that team.

Custody schedules: Getting kids to and from practice and games can be very time consuming. Make sure that the other parent is able to do this when your child is in his or her custody. If you have 50/50 custody and your Ex is unable to get the child to practice or games during his or her time, that may mean your child is missing half of the practices and games, which is not good for the child or the team. This is amplified if there is out of town travel and the other parent is unwilling or unable to travel with your child. What should you do in this situation? Hopefully your communication is good enough that you and your Ex can discuss this and come up with a solution. It may turn out that you take your child to all the practices and games, picking him up at the ex's house and dropping him off afterwards. Or you may have to find the child a ride, or hire someone. It is not fair to your child if he or she is missing games because the parents are so entrenched in their positions that the parent without custody at game time is just making it the other parent's problem.

Communication: It may not be specifically written into your parenting plan but you should make sure your Ex has a copy of the game schedule and maybe that you even communicate to him or her the day of a game. Why? Because kids like to see their parents at their games. Be sure the coaches have both parents contact info and that both parents are on the email lists.

Expenses: This goes with the decision making. Kids sports can be expensive. Be sure you have figured out who will be paying for the league and club fees, equipment and travel. Don't take your kid to a tryout and assume the other parent will pay for it if he or she makes the team. Ask up front about all of the expenses, and if you want help paying for it, take that list of expenses to your Ex and discuss it.

Game Etiquette: Some "not together" parents sit together during the kids games. My former husband and I do. Others do not and that is OK. Even if you can't stand the sight of your Ex, encourage him or her to come to games. Why? Because (remember??) kids like to see their parents at games. So what shouldn't you do at a game? Don't sit with your ex if you are going to argue about things. Seeing parents fight in the stands is not very good for your young athlete's focus. (And they will see it). If it is not your weekend don't go and try to speak with your child during warmups just because you haven't seen him in 3 days. You will probably get a chance after the game.

Organization: This may be the hardest part of this equation. Kids are usually given one uniform. So it is going to have to travel between houses. If your son is going to dad's for the weekend and has a game, be sure that the uniform goes to dad's as well if you have it. Clean. If you have a baseball player and he is going to mom's for a tournament weekend straight from school Friday, you will need to make arrangements for the baseball bag to get to mom if you have it.

The most important person to think about in this youth sports situation is your child. If you have an athlete that aspires to play a sport at a collegiate or professional level, whether he or she makes it or not may be determined in part by how you and your ex can co-parent through this journey. The last thing they need is to have the dysfunctionality of their parents to make it that much harder.

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