May 11, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver
“Mr. Beaver, as soon as the paper is delivered, your column is the first thing we read, and now, we really need your help,” “Art’s” phone call began.
“While we are not yet at risk for anything like a divorce, still, high school football is tearing us apart.
“My wife loved all kinds of sports as a kid, and is a dedicated football fan. She sees more benefit than harm in our sons remaining on their high school team even though both have been injured and each sustained a slight concussion.
“As a kid, wearing thick glasses, any type of contact sports for me was impossible, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. I did, however, join a team – the debate team which led all the way to becoming a Deputy District Attorney in Northern California. And yes, I am opposed to the violence of football.
“While this isn’t scientific, recently I began asking lawyers who represent the people we prosecute to see if their clients – these defendants – played tackle football in school. Almost all who were charged with violent crimes did. Is there some connection?”
“The evidence is beyond dispute,” Art continued, “that impact sports like football and boxing can cause long-term brain damage. But soccer is also dangerous where heading a soccer ball has been shown to injure a player’s brain.” He immediately forward links to articles supporting his point.
He asked, “I do not want our marriage to fall apart over high school football, and want my wife and sons to know how Family Court judges rule when one parent says yes, and the other says no way.”
For an answer, we turned to Riverside attorney, Paul Wallin, Senior Partner with the firm Wallin and Klarich.
He has had a great deal of experience in Family Law Court with these issues and offered insight into something critical for parents to understand, which will benefit families struggling with a test of wills over kids, football and court.
Wallin began his analysis by asking a threshold question: Who Has Custody?
“If either parent has sole legal custody, they will make the call, and the other parent has nothing to do with it. But, more often, parents have joint legal custody, and then have a choice.
“They must ask themselves, ‘Are we returning to court, at considerable expense, or, should we hire a mediator who will, hopefully, help us reach a resolution quickly and with a significant money savings when compared to going into court.”
Wallin was quick to point out that “Judges really dislike these sport-related disputes and encourage the parties to come to a resolution on their own. But if they are unable, it is important to understand that today, judges are required to listen to the wishes of children 12 or older, in addition to any other evidence presented as to the harm of any contact sport.”
For our readers who face similar, sports-related issues that are so upsetting to parents and children alike, it is important to understand how Family Courts across America view these problems.
“Ten years ago, a parent trying prevent their child from playing football or soccer would be laughed out of court. Today, judges aren’t blind to the many news reports and the science of sports-caused brain injuries. It is impossible to deny the danger which contact sports present to players,” he points out, but adds a cautionary note:
“Still, prevailing in court is a matter of proving your case. This could mean retaining an expert in children’s brain injuries and hearing testimony as to the risks, especially, in your reader’s case, to kids who have already had one concussion.”
“From what I have seen, the trend in California is for judges to be very worried about kids playing football if one of the parents objects. But it’s not a black and white situation as courts take into consideration desires of the child.
“Some judges are highly protective, but a judge who grew up watching football every Sunday for 30 years might not be inclined to prevent a kid from playing football.
“A credible expert witness is critical, judge selection is critical–knowing the judge you are going to get–those things would be on the top of my list.”
But Wallin doesn’t want to see families struggle with these issues at the courthouse. “My advice to all families is to realistically look at the science and compromise for the safety of your children. There are many sports which are far safer than football.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.