For those of us who participated in Fall high school sports, most of us brought home Parental Consent forms which were signed perfunctorily by one of our parents and returned without issue. The Parental Consent form, provided to every prospective player, was signed and returned before the first day of tryouts, at some point between buying new cleats and submitting the paperwork for an annual physical completed by the family pediatrician.
Some sports are inherently riskier than others in terms of likelihood of injury. The prime example: concussions from football. There is a litany of research on this issue and proof that long-term brain damage from participating in the sport. This research has lead some to argue football should, and will, become extinct entirely.
Others, like Malcom Gladwell in his documentary United States of Football, have argued that leaving the option to play but disseminating information about the risks will result in the “ghettoization” of the sport. This term of art essentially means that children from affluent families will not be allowed to play while those children who have fewer alternative options (or have parents who are less educated about the risk of injury) will continue to accept the risk, viewing it as a vehicle to attend college.
However, these arguments assume that there is only one parent making the decision or that the parents agree. When parents are divorced or in the process divorcing, the opportunity for a difference of opinion is always present. So how can your Morris County child custody agreement potentially affect your rights as a parent to decide what kind of sports are safe and appropriate for your children, and at what age? Let’s take a look.
Child Custody Agreements, Joint Custody, and Legal Child Custody in Morris County and New Jersey
The debate over the safety of football has been publicized in family court in Pittsburgh. John Orsini, the father of three sons, is seeking to have the court intervene and restrain his youngest son from playing football this season in large part due to the child’s repeated concussions. Mrs. Orsini has responded that the parties’ son understands the risks and should be able to play.
Should a similar situation arise in New Jersey, the weight each parent’s position is given is in large part based on the custodial arrangement between the parties. For parents who share legal custody, the New Jersey Supreme Court case Beck v. Beck, 86 N.J. 480, 485 (1981) stands for the proposition that parents sharing joint legal custody have equal rights and responsibilities regarding the “care, nurture, education and welfare of their children.” A joint legal custody arrangement is based on the assumption the parties will confer and agree on such important matters for their children. If the parents share not only legal but also residential custody, their opinions on all such “major” issues are given equal weight. However, New Jersey case law suggests that for major decisions, the primary custodial parent may have more say.
Based on my review of the case law, there are no reported New Jersey cases which directly address this issue. Moreover, one can imagine a situation where the parties share legal custody and vehemently disagree. This would be an issue of first impression for any New Jersey trial court asked to decide whether a child should be permitted to play football. Alternatively, an agreement can be reached between the parties regarding such issues, either in advance or at the time of the dispute. Of course, having experienced Morris County family law and child custody counsel on your side can help you to find solutions to these questions and issues, and potentially litigate the issue in a court of law if necessary, providing you and your child(ren) greater legal protection and affording you the legal rights that you need and deserve as a parent.
Contact Our Morristown Child Custody Attorneys Today
Author Allison Heaney Lamson, Esq. is a Senior Associate at Jacobs Berger in Morristown, NJ. At Jacobs Berger, we are dedicated to finding creative legal solutions to family law issues of all kinds, solutions which are designed to minimize conflict within the family while still accounting for the unique needs and concerns of our clients.
Our legal team has extensive experience successfully resolving divorces, child custody matters, and post-divorce modification and enforcement issues of all kinds in towns across New Jersey and Morris County, including Morristown, Madison, Randolph, East Hanover, Florham Park, Morris Plains, Mt. Olive, Morris Township, Dover, Denville, and the surrounding communities.
To speak with us today in a comprehensive and confidential case assessment regarding any kind of family law, divorce, or child custody matter, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.