William C. Gentry

Attorney at Law | Marietta, Georgia

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Obesity is now a factor in child custody decisions

As any Georgia family court judge knows, he or she must make a child custody decision with the best interest of a child in mind. While that may seem straight forward, what does that really mean? Is it in a best interest to move out of a home in Marietta, the only home a child has ever known, to move across the country? Is it in the best interest to award custody to a parent that makes more money, but has less time to spend with a child? These kinds of questions have long been considered by Georgia judges, but some may start looking at obesity as a factor in determining which parent should have physical custody over the children.

Obesity has recently become a hot-topic in child custody decisions across the country and many parents are using the threat of obesity as a way to gain custody of their children. In some situations, a parent will bring in evidence that the other parent is feeding the children an unhealthy diet and increasing the risk that the children will become obese. These arguments do not need to rely on evidence that a parent is only feeding a child unhealthy food, sometimes it is sufficient to show an unhealthy proportion of sugary or salty snacks in a child's diet.

Some parents who have watched their children gain tremendous amounts of weight while living with their ex-husband or ex-wife might move for a child custody modification. Many of these parents are concerned that the child's extreme weight gain is a result of the parent with physical custody's failure to take proper care of the children and believe that they would be able to provide a healthier lifestyle. In one case, a judge modified a custody agreement after a child's weight reached the 95th percentile and that it was clear the child was not receiving proper medical care.

There is no guarantee that an obesity argument will work in Georgia family law courts, but if you are concerned that your soon-to-be ex won't provide a healthy lifestyle for your children, it is important to speak with a family law attorney. An attorney can examine the evidence and argue why awarding your physical custody of a child would be in the child's best interest -- the standard judges must comply with in determining custody.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Obesity Fuels Custody Fights," Ashby Jones and Shirley S. Wang, Oct. 29, 2011

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