Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about your individual situation it is best to seek the advice of an experienced legal professional.

If you’re concerned enough about a child’s afterschool activities to fight your co-parent about it, that may be exactly the reason why you should discuss it peacefully instead. This headline-grabbing battle between two parents over a son’s high-school football-playing is a classic example of how conflict is usually destructive rather than constructive. It may seem to make sense that a father might want to block a 17 year old son who has suffered three concussions from playing football. However the father’s aggressive approach hasn’t worked. With joint legal custody, the father used his veto to get the school to block his son from playing football.

Since the dispute blew up, the mother has applied for sole legal custody related to afterschool activities, the relationship between the two parents has become more strained, two of the father’s sons are not speaking to him and the 17 year old boy will soon turn 18, which means he can play sports without his father’s permission. According to the NYT, judges are divided on how to decide on the best interests of children playing sports and other risky activities while the science of head injuries is still not clear. The article also says that attorneys are seeing an uptick in disputes about football-playing because of the media attention on concussion.

It’s not just safety, disputes about after-school activities can happen for other reasons. Culture, tradition and children’s emotional and physical maturity can play a role. How a judge decides on the best interests of the child can be arbitrary, so if you want to be sure your child is safe and happy, mediation with your co-parent is a more direct, and less risky way to get your concerns taken into consideration.

To understand the ways in which mediation can make a difficult situation easier, let’s look at some of the negative consequences for the father as a result of an aggressive approach:

Deepening Conflict with Ex Wife – In our mediation practice, we are careful to work with the conflict history of a relationship and we use psychoanalytical tools to do this. By taking a unilateral approach, the father used a blunt instrument that reopened old wounds and made his ex-wife an enemy, rather than supportive of his concerns.

Estrangement from Sons – Divorce can be especially hard on older children, and often they will take sides in a dispute. Conflict with a divorcing or ex-partner over the kids is detrimental to children’s emotional health and forces them to take sides. Mediation strives to preserve rather than damage important relationships. In our mediation practice we also look at appropriate strategies to parent and help kids cope with divorce based on their development level.

Lack of Control over Dispute – In mediation parties gain control over their dispute rather than losing it. The mediator is a neutral facilitator who gives ownership of the resolution back to parties. In conflict, ironically, the need for control will often forfeit control.

Unwanted publicity — Mediation is a completely private process. Unlike in litigation, conflict is resolved without damage to reputation or embarrassing and exposing vulnerable children.

Damage to a Child’s Routine – In mediation, good planning for your child’s wellbeing is top priority. Parenting plans can be quite complex, but will also promote the flexibility that parents and children need. Smart compromises about afterschool activities, curfews, pick-ups and drop-offs can be worked out through mediation. The goal is to make everyone’s life easier.

Mediation provides a structured way to debate issues like after-school activities with a neutral who helps to empower both you and your co-parent. At Boileau Conflict Solutions we bring our legal, financial and mathematical backgrounds to a careful analysis of the issues in your divorce. From the history of emotional conflict to the science of risky activities, to complex scheduling issues, we can help you and your co-parent to make the right decisions for your children. We have offices in Boulder, CO, Irvine, CA, Campbell, CA and Beverly Hills, CA. We are available 7 days a week and at urgent notice in crisis situations. We can be reached in person or can mobilize dispute resolution remotely. Please visit us in person or contact us via Zoom, Facetime or telephone to see how we can help.

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