Hockey Parents: Do Kids’ Schedules Have to be Accommodated?

October 13, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

Kids these days are busy: – in addition to their school obligations, many of them also have after-school programs and sports as well.  Parents know how difficult it can be to juggle a kid’s schedule alongside their own.

For parents who are separated and divorced, the task is even more complicated, because court-imposed or negotiated custody and access arrangements are also part of the mix.

In a recent case called Durkin v. Cunningham, 2014 ONSC 4659 (CanLII), the court  considered whether and to what extent the rep-level hockey schedules of two children, aged 13 and 11, had to be accommodated  at the expense of the father who did not have custody, only access.

The father claimed the mother had deliberately scheduled the kids’ hockey and soccer at time when he was supposed to have access, and that various tournaments also took place during his access times as well.   The court described the essence of the dispute it this way:

It is not surprising, in these circumstances, that hockey assumed a greater importance to [the mother] than it had for [the father].  When there was a conflict between the boys’ hockey commitments, and especially those of [the one son], who served on a “Rep” hockey team in 2011 and 2012, [the mother] expected [the father] to accommodate [the son’s] hockey schedule, attending at the practices and games and departing from the boys when they joined their mother and their teammates in the locker room.  [The mother] explains that the rules of [the son’s] “Rep” team required him to attend every game and practice, or be “benched” if he missed one.  If he missed a game, [the mother] explains at para. 17 to 20 of her affidavit, he would not be allowed to play with his team the next season.  …

[The mother] states in her affidavit that she did not know whether [the father] would take the boys to their hockey games or practices.  Her preoccupation with ensuring that they attended, combined with her uncertainty as to whether [the father] would take them, caused her to refuse access, or support the boys in their resistance to accompany him, so that she could assume responsibility for them herself at these times.   

The court considered those occasional instances where the mother thwarted the father’s access, and found that these were deliberate, and that they affected the children’s best interests.  Accordingly, by way of an Order the court re-evaluated and amended the father’s access entitlements, and made it expressly clear that:

1)   Neither of them was allowed to arrange any new extra-curricular activities for the children, or attendance at special events such as birthday parties, at a time when the children are to be in the care of the other parent; and

2) Each parent was responsible for determining the children’s hockey and soccer games and practices, and to ensure that they attend those games regularly and on time.

Do you have a question about how to deal with your kids’ activities so as not to breach a child custody or access arrangement?  Contact us for a consultation.