Q. My ex, Dorothy, and I have joint legal custody of our twin 12-year old boys, with me having the boys forty percent of the time. Our boys love and want to play sports all the time. My problem is that Dorothy signs the boys up for activities which occur during my parenting time. If I disagree, Dorothy says “Fine. Don’t pay. But I’m still signing them up.” Or she tells the boys I won’t let them do things.
Also, it’s important to me that our children have a strong faith-based character. They like their friends and the music programs at our temple when we go there on my weekends. Preparation for their Bar Mitzvah at age 13 requires them to study and practice.
How can I prevent Dorothy from interfering with their Bar Mitzvah studies and my parenting time by her unilaterally signing them up for extra-curricular activities?
A. Dorothy knows religion is important for you. So, in what might be diagnosed as a passive aggressive slap in your face, she pushes your important things to the bottom of the boys’ list. But joint legal custody means neither of you have the unilateral right to sign the boys up for anything which interferes with the other parent’s parenting time.
Try to work this out before rushing to court. Use emails in an effort to have a paper-trail you can use if a court case is needed. Also, if financially possible, if you agree to pay for all reasonable Bar Mitzvah expenses –other than her fancy dress – Dorothy might agree just to force you to give her a free ride.
If no agreement is reached within a few weeks, you need to promptly file two complaints: one for contempt claiming her conduct violates your joint custody; and the other requesting modification to prevent Dorothy from interfering with the boys’ studies for and attending their Bar Mitzvah. Attach copies of relevant emails showing Dorothy’s unilaterally signing the boys up for activities which occur during your parenting time, her refusal to cooperate for the boys’ Bar Mitzvah training, etc. Also attach a calendar which shows her unilaterally signing the boys up for activities which occur during your parenting time.
Also start a conversation with your children by asking what sports they like best. To perform better, children at their age typically narrow their activities to one or two sports. And ask what they liked about Bar or Bat Mitzvahs they’ve seen at the temple. And suggest, if they want to have a big party for their thirteenth birthday, then, like doing well in a sport, they need to now start training and practicing with a teacher to do well at their Bar Mitzvah.
In court the judge might say Dorothy’s unilateral sign-ups and failure to cooperate in the boys’ Bar Mitzvah preparation could be deemed not in the boys’ best interests. And that might result in dad having primary or sole legal custody. If she’s wise, Dorothy will pay attention to that wake-up call.