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Connecticut Family Lawyer

posted in Child Custody

on Friday, November 4, 2011.

As kids polish off their Halloween candy stashes, their parents are preparing for Thanksgiving and the rest of the winter holidays. From now until early next year, Stamford moms and dads will be juggling their visits to the gym with their holiday parties and cookie exchanges. It’s a holiday tradition to worry about weight gain. For parents working on child custody issues, the focus can shift from their own fitness to their children’s, and the results may not be pretty.

Just a couple of months ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article about overweight children. The article was not exactly about the health issues those kids face. Rather, it was about the state having a right to remove an obese child from his parents’ care: “In severe cases of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable,” the authors claimed.

Certainly, the issue of overweight among children is real. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years. Right now, 17 percent of children (and teens) are obese. That’s 12.5 million kids facing all the health risks that come with obesity: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and stroke to name just a few.

With increased national attention on childhood obesity, more and more parents are asking courts to consider their children’s weight as a factor in custody decisions. Family law attorneys tell of clients who have argued a change in custody based on a belief that the children are eating only fast food and not exercising enough.

Family law attorneys also say that the “best interest of the child” standard used in most states has evolved to include the physical well-being of the child in addition to his emotional well-being. The most obvious sign of physical health is weight. The theory is that the court will see that a child eats better and exercises more with the petitioning parent.

The theory may be sound, but courts want more proof than empty ice cream cartons. Family law experts say judges tend to act only in severe cases. Especially in shared custody situations, courts will consider a child’s right to have a close relationship with a parent as well as a parent’s right to raise a child as he or she sees fit before they look at caloric intake.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Obesity fuels custody fights,” Ashby Jones and Shirley S. Wang, Oct. 29, 2011

Tags: best interest of the child, child custody, divorce, obesity

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