Per this recent article in The Wall Street Journal, family law practitioners and legal experts say mothers and fathers in custody lawsuits are increasingly hurling accusations at each other about the nutrition and obesity of their children, largely in attempts to persuade judges that their kids are getting less-than-optimal care in the hands of ex- and soon-to-be-ex-spouses.
It’s not a new thing for lifestyle choices to play a major role in custody battles. “It used to be constantly and consistently about smoking,” said Jeff Wittenbrink, a family law specialist in Baton Rouge, LA. “It’s only been recently where one parent thinks their kid’s not active enough, is gaining weight and eating sugary food.” And perhaps with good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17%, or about 12.5 million, of the nation’s children and teens are obese. Since 1980, according to CDC statistics, obesity rates have nearly tripled.
A handful of splashy news events have helped push the obesity-and-custody issue to the fore. In 2009, a 555-pound, 14-year-old South Carolina boy was removed to foster care after his mother was arrested and charged with criminal neglect. The state’s Department of Social Services had determined that without state intervention, the boy was at risk of serious harm.
Last July, David Ludwig, a prominent obesity expert at Children’s Hospital in Boston, co-wrote a highly publicized article in the Journal of the American Medical Association saying that “in severe cases of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable.”
Speaking generally of his experience with weight as an issue in custody disputes, one divorce attorney noted that “if one side is scratching to find something wrong with the other person, the courts might not give it the same weight. If all things are equal but one person only feeds fatty foods and the children have weight problems, I think it can become an important distinguishing factor.”
Whatever the outcomes of individual court cases, one would hope that someone is paying attention to the children themselves, and not just to their waistlines. And doing some work after the custody battles end to correct behaviors and address the health issues. Read more…