A contentious issue in child custody cases is a child’s extracurricular activity. The decision may be easy when the sport is badminton, but litigation is not out of bounds when the activity involves football – especially in a big football state like Florida.
Tackling Extracurricular Decision Making
As the New York Times reports, there are always questions regarding whether the child will participate in extracurricular activities. The typical questions involve which activities, who pays the costs, and scheduling the activity so it doesn’t infringe on the other parents’ timesharing are easy enough to punt.
In shared parental responsibility cases, the issue of extracurricular activities can be very divisive – especially when choosing an injury-prone sport like skateboarding and football.
How do courts tackle the issue?
Extracurricular activities are closely related to decisions about education and schooling, and the parent with sole, or ultimate decision-making authority over education, makes the final decision concerning extracurricular activities as well.
But in a shared parental responsibility case, the decision can be easily fumbled.
Florida Shared Parental Responsibility
I’ve written about parental responsibility choices before. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.
Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.
In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.
Issues relating to a child’s extracurricular activities, including the decision to participate in dangerous sports, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child.
When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.
At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.
A Custody Touchdown?
In the decade since scientists began to link football to long-term brain damage, the debate over the future of the sport has moved from research laboratories to the halls of Congress, to locker rooms and parents’ kitchen tables.
The growing number of disputes over the long-term consequences of football has put family court judges in the awkward position of having to pick sides on a hotly debated issue.
In most states, such as Florida, family court judges are charged with ruling in the best interests of a child’s health. In the case of sports like hang gliding or rock climbing, the dangers may be self-evident.
But the science around the long-term cognitive and neurological damage caused by football is still emerging.
Judges who side with parents trying to prevent their sons from playing tackle football end up endorsing the view that the sport is too risky, a stance that might be unpopular with voters who elect them.
Judges who side with parents who want their son to play, on the other hand, risk being accused of not being prudent enough if the boy is injured.
The New York Times article is here.