In Jaggers v. MacGruder, 2012-CA-00097-COA (Miss.Ct.App. Jan. 7, 2014), the Mississippi Court of Appeals considered the father’s claim that his sons’ travel baseball schedule was usurping his visitation time.
Travel baseball has increased in popularity recently. Unlike local “rec” leagues, boys must try out for travel baseball teams which are similar to all-star teams. Travel baseball teams generally practice more often than rec teams and play in out-of-town tournaments. Some teams play in tournaments every weekend during the spring-summer season, some teams play less. Regardless, travel baseball is an enormous time commitment for the children and the parents.
The two boys at issue tried out for and made travel teams for their age groups. The teams practiced regularly and played in six weekend tournaments during March, April and June. The father alleged that this extracurricular activity usurped his visitation and prevented him from fostering a loving relationship with his sons. The mother argued that the boys loved playing on the teams and it was in their best interests to continue playing. Counselors testified that the boys were emotionally invested in sports and preventing them from playing could have negative impacts on the boys.
The Court of Appeals held that the boys could continuing playing in the travel baseball leagues and upheld the trial court’s ruling that the father must ensure that the boys participated during periods of visitation. The Court upheld that trial court’s ruling that the father would be able make up visitation missed because of scheduling conflicts.
The Court of Appeals and the Trial Court properly put the interests and choices of the boys first and the convenience of the father second. Reading between the lines, the holding stands for the proposition that the parent with visitation rights does not have the sole authority to determine how that visitation will be spent, and the choices of the children on extracurricular activities will be respected.
As children get older and become more involved in sports, clubs, scouting, music, etc …. it is inevitable that these activities will affect visitation periods. If you are getting a divorce and working out a custody and visitation agreement, you should consider this inevitable conflict and address this situation in the agreement, so the Judge doesn’t have to get involved when travel baseball and visitation collide.