Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Divorced Parents Go to Court Over Son Playing HS Football

Divorce can certainly take a heavy toll on a family. But in a unique case out of Pittsburgh, one former husband-and-wife team is taking the acrimony to new levels by playing tug-of-war with their son's ability to play high school football.

In this case, one parent thinks the sport is too dangerous, while the other thinks the benefits outweigh the risks. And it's not what you think -- dad is actually the one saying "no" to football. But who decides? And will junior be forced to sit on the sidelines until the case is resolved?

The Back and Forth

While once a football enthusiast and a player himself, John Orsini changed his mind about his son's participation in the sport after the boy suffered his third concussion (one from baseball, two from football). He argues that football is a non-essential activity, and that his son is in danger of suffering long-term damage if he continues playing. John eventually revoked his consent, and the school was forced to prohibit the boy from playing.

The boy's mother, Janice Orsini, filed an emergency request to allow her son to continue playing. She argues that doctors have cleared him to play despite his previous concussions, and that her son fully appreciates the risks of doing so.

Who Decides?

Now the matter is in family court as the divorced parents battle over who should get to decide the issue for their son. Janice filed a petition to gain sole legal custody but only as it relates to her son's participation in extracurricular activities. While this issue is being decided, a judge allowed the boy to finish his junior year of football, and the father's subsequent motions have failed in court. The family is participating in court-ordered mediation, but if that falls through, they will likely go to trial. The question is, will that be as pointless as a Hail Mary pass when you're down by 30 with 10 seconds to go? The boy turns 18 in November.

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