In August, we wrote that the number of single-father families is on the rise, both in Florida and in the rest of the United States. Experts say this represents a culture shift in family law. In the past, mothers were often awarded child custody without much thought.
But now, when sole child custody must be awarded, more judges are taking time to consider which parent will best meet a child's needs. However, an unintended byproduct of this consideration is that every facet of personal life now seems to be a bargaining tool, including the child's weight.
Family law attorneys are noticing more parents that raise the issue of childhood obesity during custody disputes. In most of these cases, they blame the other parent for a child's weight and nutrition problems.
If the child or children are overweight, one parent may blame the other for providing a disproportionate amount of junk food and for not promoting physical activity.
Other times, a thinner parent may accuse their overweight spouse of setting a bad example. They may also express concerns that this parent's own weight problems hinder their ability to perform essential child-rearing functions.
Childhood obesity is becoming a more frequent problem in the US. Since 1980, rates of obesity among children and teens have nearly tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, about 17 percent of America's youth is considered obese.
Currently, citing weight concerns as way to influence child custody decisions can be kind of a hard sell. Parents often need to demonstrate a pretty serious problem or show that weight is just one of many problems.
But if the childhood obesity epidemic continues to grow, family law judges may be forced to give more consideration to physical health and lifestyle when deciding which parent can best meet the needs of a child.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Obesity Fuels Custody Fights," Ashby Jones and Shirley S. Wang, Oct. 29, 2011
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