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A trend more than an anomaly: Child obesity and custody challenges

We recently informed readers of a topic that is gaining traction in family law matters, even though disputes concerning the subject haven't yet been commonly taken to and resolved in the courts.

Please see our November 4 blog post for a brief discussion of child obesity and the potential for a young person's excessive weight to become a primary factor in a child custody dispute.

In a country where an estimated two million-plus children are extremely obese, it is likely that such cases will become more frequent in the future.

One such case of quite recent vintage that occurred in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, has galvanized persons on both sides of the issue -- advocates of home removal in certain instances and strong opponents of that measure, respectively. The case involves the removal of an 8-year-old boy from his home, solely on grounds of his weight problem.

"Starting the debate is a good thing," said one doctor, a child obesity expert, in response to placement of the child in foster care by a county family services agency.

"We need more guidance on how to react to the issue," he added.

The boy weighed more than 200 pounds when he was brought into a medical clinic recently by his mother for problems related to sleep apnea. That visit triggered the state's action, with authorities noting that they had already spent close to two years working with the mother to reduce the boy's weight.

Ohio officials say the boy's worsening condition owes to his mother's parental neglect.

She says otherwise, contending that she has been working on the problem.

"They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit," she said, "like I don't love my child."

Source: Boston Globe, "Ohio county takes 200-pound 8-year-old from mother" Nov. 28, 2011

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