Family Law

Failing to Pick Up Your Child after an Activity

Children are more involved in activities now than in the past. Besides being active in school, a child may be involved in multiple sports, different camps and after-school clubs. Parents may easily have a hard time keeping up with it all. It's even harder when parents aren't raising their child together and strive to meet the terms of their custody arrangement.

Problems arise when parents fail to pick up their child on time. Whether the child's activity is academic or athletic, activity supervisors and staff have concerns for your child's well-being and their own needs. When a parent fails to attend to a child's schedule, consequences range from conflicts with your child's activity, school or care providers, to the risk of harm to your child if he or she is unattended. Understand the limits of your child's activity and school providers and how you can keep all schedules running smoothly.

A Child Left Behind: A Supervisor's View and Response

Supervisors of programs and activities need to tell parents upfront that children should be picked up on time. Although most parents are diligent about their children's schedules, some parents fall short, and may even neglect their children's needs. They might not think or care that watching their children outside an activity's scheduled time is a burden on a supervisor.

Expect to find that a provider, whether it's an activity, school or child care program, has a policy and plan for response when parents are late for picking up children. There may be a "three-strike" rule, imposing a penalty, such as a fine or even removing a child from a program if a child isn't picked up on time.

Supervisors should carry a cell phone at all times and have parents' contact numbers. They should also have the phone numbers of emergency contacts in case a parent is unavailable.

Another issue that a supervisor must worry about is possible sexual harassment or child abuse. A supervisor must make sure that there's not even the appearance or chance for an allegation of improper behavior. Expect to find that staff for your child's programs have a policy of not being alone with a child. At the least, a staff member or supervisor may stay on a cell phone call if a single child is left at pick up time.

As a last resort, if a supervisor is unable to reach a parent or an emergency contact, he can contact law enforcement. You may end up picking up your child at the police station.

Steps for Parents for a Well-Managed Child

Parents need to realize that simple matters of picking up children on time are based on your child's safety, program rules and limits and even plain manners. Your child's teacher, care giver or coach has a schedule, too. Managing it all according to a parenting plan or custody order can make things harder, but it can be done.

Many parents "co-parent," often due to divorce, and often because they have never been together in a single family unit. Families come in all forms, and it's not uncommon to find children who have never been part of a traditional, nuclear family.

Strive to cooperate with your child's other parent for your child's benefit. Keeping a civil attitude and tone can go a long way when tending to your child's needs. Your lawyer can help you through a divorce or custody matter by helping you get a parenting plan that reflects how you and your child's other parent will work together. Keep things as simple as possible, and use common-sense strategies such as:

  • Keeping detailed calendars of a child's school, child care and activity schedules
  • Think about setting regular planning meetings to cover your child's changing schedule
  • Know the limits of your schedule, such as work, and those of the other parent
  • Have a contact and backup plan; know contact numbers and people to call if you can't pick up your child

Any parent should follow these rules, but good scheduling practices and punctuality matter even more for parents with a custody order. Problems with how you care for your child can readily become a factor in a custody dispute.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My ex-spouse is often late for picking up my child from a sports activity, and I get billed for late pickup fines. Can I recover these extra expenses?
  • I have joint physical custody of my child. Do I have to honor my ex's requests to change days and pick up our child up from his activities?
  • Do courts in our area view bad habits such as picking up a child late from activities in a bad light if it comes up in a custody dispute?
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