Can Obesity Affect Child Custody?

There are many factors that are considered when determining the custody of a child during divorce proceedings.  To help a judge determine child custody, many states have added specific criteria when considering the best interests of the child.  Another criteria that is being added recently is whether and to what degree a child is eating well and exercising.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a study that states that childhood obesity has more than tripled in our country in the past three decades.  The percentage of children ages 6-11 who were obese, increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008.  Adolescents aged 12-19 obesity rates have increased from 5 percent to 19 percent over the same period.

The role obesity plays in the child custody battles in our nation is increasing, too.  Many parents are using accusations of poor nutrition and obesity as an attempt to persuade judges that their ex-spouse in not properly taking care of their child.  The accusing parent states that his ex-partner is placing his child at risk of developing a diet related disease, such as diabetes or heart disease.  A parent may go as far as saying that a child is being teased at school because he is obese.

Parents are  not just using the obesity of the child in an attempt to gain custody, but using the obesity of the other parent as well.  Some parents are saying that the other parent is too obese to perform the basic child care functions.

Most family experts agree that obesity claims have to be quite severe in order to trump both a child’s right to have a close relationship with a parent and a parent’s right to raise a child in the manner he or she sees fit.

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