Navigating Sports Participation After Divorce – What You Need to Know

As the new school year starts, many kids are thinking about sports participation.  Whether a child shows interest in fall sports at school, or prefers a year round traveling team, sports participation offers many benefits.  Sports can increase a child’s coordination and physical strength.  But sports also improves mood and can increase self confidence.  Sports may provide social benefits as well.  They learn good sportsmanship and develop friendships that can carry them through challenges in high school and beyond.  However, sports participation sometimes presents a source of conflict for parents.  Conflict occurs whether married, separated, divorcing, or already divorced.  Below are some of the areas of conflict, and potential ways to approach these conflicts when your children express interest in sports participation after divorce.

Sports Participation After Divorce: Include Sports Agreements in the Divorce Decree

For those considering divorce or in the middle of a divorce, your attorney can incorporate an agreement about sports participation in the divorce decree.  For those already divorced, take out the decree and review it to see if there has been any discussion about co-parenting and extracurricular activities.  Some areas to address include:

  • Financial commitments
  • Time commitments
  • Attendance

Financial Commitments

Sports participation requires a financial commitment.  Some sports require a participation fee.  All sports require some equipment, from running shoes for a cross country participant, to full goalie gear, including pads, skates, helmet and stick for a hockey player.  Some teams assess transportation fees.  It is a good idea for parents to discuss these costs before committing to participating in a given sport.  Of course, parents want to support their children’s goals.  However, particularly when children are quite young during the divorce, parents may not anticipate the extent of the cost of sports participation.

Some parents share costs 50/50.  In other families, one parent may agree to pay certain fees, while the other parent pays for the cost of equipment.  Depending on the situation, one parent may agree to pay for all monetary costs, while the other parent agrees to provide all transportation.

Time Commitments

Sports require practice.  This can include both practice as a team as well as individual practice to build muscle and skill.  While typically parents are not expected to be present during practice, they will be expected to transport the child to and from practice.  Additionally, depending on the parenting time schedule, afterschool or weekend sports practice could infringe unfairly on one parent’s time over the other.  Who takes the child to practice, and what days the child is available to participate in practice, are considerations when evaluating sports participation.


If most children got to write the script, their parents would both attend sporting events.  The parents’ joint focus would be cheering on their child and their child’s team.  However, this is not always something parents are able to do.  If parents cannot both attend a sporting event while keeping the focus on the child, other arrangements should be made.

Sports Participation After Divorce: Dealing with Sports Agreements Post Divorce Decree

Even if one spends time working to address every eventuality, it is possible something will come up post divorce decree that was not anticipated.  For example, a child who never considered sports the year of the divorce may decide, three years later, to take up swimming.  If swim practice is on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the non-custodial parent has parenting time scheduled for those days, perhaps a modification to Mondays instead of Tuesdays is appropriate.  If the financial situation of the parties has changed significantly, previously agreed to commitments about who would pay for what may need to be revisited.

Sports Participation After Divorce: Providing Ongoing Support

In addition to taking children to and from practice, and outfitting them with the proper sports equipment, parents may need to provide additional support.  For example, an athlete may require a special diet or additional practice time.  This is easier when both parents are on board with the decision to participate in sports.

Sports Participation After Divorce: Dealing with Specific Concerns

One parent may have strong feelings about preventing a child from participating in a certain sport.  As more information is learned about traumatic brain injury, for example, more parents are choosing to keep their children out of football and soccer.  Sometimes one parent wants to ensure their child doesn’t play a particular sport, or a certain category of sports.  In this situation, it is a good idea for them to bring this up with their divorce attorney.  While a divorce decree may be modified after the fact, it is often easier to negotiate hard and fast rules such as “no soccer” during the divorce, rather than after.

Sports Participation After Divorce: Resolving Sports Conflicts

There is no “right way” to resolve conflicts between parents over the sporting activities of their children.  Instead, there are a number of different approaches that can lead to positive outcomes.  By keeping an open mind and a willingness to resolve issues parents, most parents find they can work together to resolve conflicts.

Considering Divorce?

If you are considering divorce, the future sports adventures of your children may be the furthest thing from your mind.  A divorce attorney, however, can anticipate this and other potential areas of conflict.  Contact the law firm of Fait & DiLima for all your family law needs.  We offer a full range of services, from filing for divorce to seeking amendments to parenting time agreements.  We work with clients to find creative solutions that fit the needs of their family.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation at (301) 251-0100.



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