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Should obesity be deemed relevant in a child custody dispute?

Divorce-related matters can go smoothly between a parting couple or, as media reports frequently remind us, they can turn acrimonious.

One need look no further than child custody disputes to pinpoint a primary source of contention between ex-spouses visiting a court.

As we have noted in prior blog posts, the long-entrenched standard in Florida and elsewhere throughout the country for adjudging what optimally avails a child is encapsulated in this inquiry: What is in the best interests of that child?

The "best interests" standard customarily considers the emotional well-being of a child, but many courts and family law practitioners are reporting the emergence of a factor related to physical well-being that is now featuring in many custody disputes, namely, obesity.

Some readers might remember the case of a 550-plus pound boy who was taken from his mother in South Carolina two years ago and placed in foster care. The mother was charged with criminal neglect.

Or they might recollect the comment from an eminent obesity expert that "in severe cases of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable."

The point: Increasingly more couples are entering court with one party accusing the other of being a deficient care provider and undermining a child's best interests by not paying due attention to eating habits or disorders that result in obesity.

And, thus, courts in many states are now considering things like diet and exercise in their overall consideration of a child's best interests.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Obesity figures in more custody battles" Oct. 29, 2011

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