A 6-year-old girl’s participation in a child beauty pageant has become a hotly contested issue in a child custody battle between the girl’s mother and father. The child was entered into the contest by the mother and dressed up to look like country western signer Dolly Parton. As part of her costume, her mother had her wear butt pads and a padded bra to look more like Parton, something the father believes was inappropriately sexual and exploitative.

The contest was televised on the TLC program “Toddlers & Tiaras,” a show many families in Atlanta have likely seen. When her father saw her costume, he to court to ask for sole custody of the child, arguing that dressing up in such a provocative outfit and being displayed in the pageant was not in his daughter’s best interest and could be harmful to her.

The mother does not agree, and argues that the costume worn was not intended to be sexual. Rather, she believes that it was more humorous than anything. The judge hearing the case closed the hearings to the media and ordered the mother not to speak to the press, as well as ordering that the child and her mother not be involved in any other beauty contest activity until the case is resolved. A court-appointed psychologist has reportedly recommended that the judge grant custody to the father.

The determination of child custody is based on what is in the best interest of the child. The judge therefore must assess whether competing in beauty pageants and wearing potentially sexual costumes is harmful for the child. If it is, it is likely that the father will be granted custody of his daughter.

Source: ABC News, “Custody at Risk After ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ Star Wears Fake Boobs, Butt,” Jennifer Pereira and Sharde Miller, Aug. 20, 2012

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