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Who decides if a child can play football?

Child custody discussions are one of the most difficult parts of any separation or divorce. Custody discussions aim for a connective thread that allows the parents to work together even though they don't live together. In most cases, one parent has primary custody but both parents have a say about important decisions in their child's life. This includes medical issues, religion, schools and more. The parent with primary physical custody makes decisions about day-to-day matters like extra-curricular activities.

One issue that's getting more court time in recent years is youth football. It's an extra-curricular activity through school or community programs, but with the ongoing debate about concussions and general safety, it overlaps with health concerns.

Extra-curricular, medical or both?

The New York Times recently profiled an ongoing case in Pittsburgh about this topic. The youngest son of divorced parents has a history of concussions. Knowing his son's history and the risks of playing football, the father doesn't want his 17 year-old son to play. The mother feels that her son is aware of the risks and can make his own decision: which is to play. It's created a contentious situation where the court is hesitant to make a final ruling.

Is football a general health concern, or is it an extra-curricular activity?

Reducing conflict and establishing roles

While Pennsylvania and Florida have different rules about child custody and family law, the issue crosses state lines. The article notes that attorneys are seeing more and more questions about contact sports like football and how custody agreements address the topic.

The goal of a custody agreement is to find a workable relationship for both parents, always in protection of a child's best interests. While the agreement will define visitation schedules and general decision-making principles, there will always be new issues that develop. While a proper agreement will minimize disputes, life is never predictable. The details of a custody agreement matter, but it's equally important that parents find a way to resolve these differences without it hurting their children. In Pittsburgh, the father's relationship with his sons is strained by the case. A disagreement about parenting has cost the family beyond the playing field.

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