Obesity: The newest child custody issue

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States, often termed an “epidemic.” In fact, about 17 percent of America’s children and teens are now obese, a figure that has tripled since 1980. Now, childhood obesity has become more than a just a growing private and public health concern – it is the latest hot-button issue in child custody disputes.

Specifically, both mothers and fathers are bringing up nutrition and obesity with greater frequency in child custody battles.

At times, the complaining parent points to a severely overweight child as evidence of substandard care by the current care-giving parent. At other times, the complaining parent argues that the child’s diet is inappropriate, and that obesity and other health problems will follow. In other instances, the complaining parent even argues that the other parent is too obese to properly care for the child or children.

But whatever the form of the accusations, the goal is the same: to secure child custody by pointing to problems with obesity.

In the majority of child custody cases, the judge’s decision will ultimately turn on what is in the best interests of the child.

How does obesity fit into this calculation, however?

In general, it appears as if obesity issues are not, by themselves, sufficient to change a judge’s determination on child custody. (In certain extreme cases, such as the recent removal of a 555-pound 14-year-old to foster care, obesity alone is sufficient.)

However, when paired with other issues, even less-severe problems with obesity can be enough to tip the balance.

If you are facing a child custody dispute, and have concerns about your children’s diet and exercise, or concerns that your children’s other parent will try to raise such issues, consider speaking with a qualified child custody attorney who can help you navigate the ever-changing child custody landscape, obesity issues and all.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Wall Street Journal “Obesity fuels custody fights” Oct. 29, 2011