In the highly scheduled, some say overscheduled, world of suburban children, figuring out where they are supposed to be and when is a constant battle. It is hard enough to do in an intact family, much less in divorced families where the parties are tasked to co-parent. I know this week, just the addition of end of school year parties and changes of other birthday parties due to weather or family emergencies has turned our week on end. Add another level of difficulty when the parties’ communication is strained at best, horrific/abusive, at worst and/or if the parties live at great distance from each other. Some people willingly agree to use Google Calendar, Our Family Wizard, or some other website or application that allows them to keep a master calendar for the children activities, events, school events, birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, vacations, sports schedules, etc. Others have a constant battle and ultimately need to be ordered to have a master calendar of some type. For the high conflict warriors, the next battle (there is always a next battle), is whose job it is to input the dates into the calendar.
The common refrain we hear from the parent of primary residence is “I’m not his secretary” or “he gets copies of everything.” In a perfect world, every coach, every teacher and everyone else, provides copies to both parents. In real life, this never happens.
In a recent case, the mother (who either does not work outside of the home or works very part time) alleged in court papers that the father “gets copies of everything” then proceeded to tell of all of the things that she had to forward to the father because he wasn’t copied. She then had the temerity to exclaim with exasperation or righteous indignation that as parent of primary residence, it was hard enough to keep the calendar straight.
That’s exactly the point, if the PPR can’t keep the calendar straight, what hope does the other parent have? In that case, the judge ordered the mother (again) to timely maintain and update the calendar. In most cases, that is probably the logical call because in most cases, the PPR is the one that will first get most, if not all of the information, and more importantly, may be the only parent that gets the birthday invitations, last minute scheduling changes, will and other things not amenable to notice to both parents, as well as the fact that that parent will be scheduling the non-emergent medical appointments, etc.
Can their be a way to divide the work, especially where the parties have equal or almost equal parenting time, both work full time outside of the home, etc. or otherwise? Sure. Maybe one parent can be responsible for imputing the initial soccer schedule received at the beginning of the season and the other parent responsible for the initial football schedule that same season. That said, in most cases, one parent has to be primarily responsible or you can have a stalemate as to who is entering the dates. If that causes the children or other parent to miss an event, how is that in the children’s best interests?
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristown, New Jersey offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.