The child custody landscape is always changing in Massachusetts and around the country. While the traditional duty of the courts to look into the best interests of the child remains the same, courts are increasingly considering issues of obesity and lifestyle when making that determination. Observers are divided as to whether or not this is a good thing, particularly because such a disagreement forces the issues of a child's self-esteem to the forefront.
There is some indication, however, that the argument makes sense in limited situations. A judge in another state changed a child custody arrangement upon being given proof that a divorced couple's boy ate fast food meals three times a day and his vaccinations were not kept current. And in Pennsylvania, judges are now told that diet and obesity are factors to be considered in determining the physical health and well-being of a child.
One observer notes that there are differing reasons to explain obesity, ranging from diet and genetics to stress. Accordingly, it is not always easy to prove that a child's weight problems are the result of neglect or abuse by the other parent. Parents are nevertheless blaming each other and courts are listening, though it is still rare to find a judge ruling for one parent over another based solely on claims of obesity.
Child custody proceedings are emotional and full of stress for all parties involved, including any children who are the focus of the dispute. Anyone in Massachusetts going through child custody proceedings would do well to consult an attorney experienced in all aspects of family law litigation. The lawyer can help assess the facts and circumstances and work to prepare and present a convincing argument designed to do what is truly best for the child.
Source: King 5, "Childhood obesity increasingly a factor in custody disputes," Oct. 31, 2011