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Child obesity: is this the new weapon in custody battles?

There is a growing public concern surrounding the issue of child obesity. But did you know that this issue has started to come up in child custody proceedings?

Because courts will look at the best interests of a child when determining custody, parents will often try to show that they are the better parent. But recently more parents have been accusing one another of putting a child’s health in danger.

While many child custody cases do not solely rest on whether obesity is a concern, it has become a factor. In one particular case, a parent lost custody of a child after a judge decided it wasn’t in the child’s best interest. Apparently the child’s diet consisted of mostly fast-food and the he was not given proper medical attention.

Obesity and child custody became more of a public concern after a mother lost custody of her son. The son was dangerously obese and officials were concerned that his life was at risk. In addition to losing her son, the mother was also charged with child neglect.

If a custodial parent is putting a child’s health in danger in this way, should their parenting abilities be questioned? If a child is overweight, does this necessarily mean a parent is unfit to care for a child? A parent who feeds a child fast-food constantly and does not provide adequate health care may not be intentionally harming a child’s health but instead might be struggling with finances.

Judges are cautious when it comes to relying on the presence of obesity as the reason for modifying an existing custody agreement. But as we can see from some of the examples given above, child obesity can play a part in determining what is in the best interests of the child.

Source: The Wall Street Journal: “Obesity Fuels Custody Fights,” Ashby Jones and Shirley S. Wang, Oct. 29, 2011


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