Whether parents have separated or divorced, parenting plans are essential documents in order to outline each of the co-parent's rights and responsibilities as it relates to raising their children.

Certain provisions -- parenting time, pickups and drop-offs, and how the parents will address the physical, emotional, mental, and educational needs of the child -- appear in well over 90% of parenting plans. Some even address which parent will pay for extracurricular activities. Most common: "Each parent will share the reasonable costs and expenses... " Even better: "...none to be unreasonably denied."

A challenge co-parents often face is when one supports having a child participate in arts and extracurricular activities, but the other does not. Courts generally don't want to get involved in these day-to-day parenting decisions. It's usually agreed that both parents should support what is important to the child, and it's far better to work this out with your child's other parent than to have some stranger in a black robe dictate what is best for you and your family!

Advantages to arts and extracurricular activities

Generally speaking, it is in a child's best interest to be involved in extracurricular activities, to develop skills, and give them the confidence that comes with success and failure, as well as building relationships with peers.

Ideally, you both have the best interest of your child as your guiding star, considering each child's wants and needs, likes, and dislikes.

Additionally, students who are involved in extracurricular pursuits tend to improve their academic performance as well. This may be due to increased self-esteem, motivation, and better time management. They become better organized in the classroom. They demonstrate fewer at-risk behaviors and a heightened sense of belonging, resulting in better behavior.

They also learn useful new skills from their chosen activities and, in integrating these activities into their everyday school lives, they learn time management, critical thinking, teamwork, and social skills. They develop lifelong relationships with their peers and learn how to lead others. These skills will be beneficial in later life and in the workplace.

Extracurricular activities also foster a sense of commitment to a cause or purpose, and they reduce selfish behavior. This eventually leads to students becoming more marketable in the workplace.

Participation in extracurricular activities also makes it easier for students to gain admission into colleges and universities. As of late, universities are more interested in recruiting students who have something more to offer besides academic qualifications.

They seek out students who show promise in contributing in other areas to the university and the society at large.

Questions and issues to discuss with your co-parent

1. What if a parent insists on activities he or she believes are in the child's best interest (i.e., swim lessons, piano lessons, an academic tutor) and the child doesn't want to do it and/or is "brainwashed" by the other parent into believing it is irrelevant or a waste of time?

2. Is there a limit on the number of activities a child will participate in (i.e., having music lessons and sports practices seven days a week)? What happens if one or more activities are impacting the child's school work or the other parent's parenting time? What if there's a conflict between activities? Who decides whether flute lessons trump baseball practice?

3. Who will take the child to and from the lessons/practices?

4. Can both parents attend recitals, games, and exhibits -- even if the child is technically supposed to be with the other parent on that given day/time?

5. What if one parent wants to serve as the child's coach?

6. Will both parents help make sure children get in the requisite amount of "homework" for activities (i.e., practicing piano 15 minutes a day)?

However you decide to work things out, remember that this isn't about you or your co-parent -- the focus should be on the best interest of your child.