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Could a child's weight affect parental custody?

A boy has been taken from his family somewhere in Ohio. It isn't a case of kidnapping, but of Child and Family Services -- the state's child protection program -- stepping in. The 8-year-old child was taken away from his mother because of health concerns that were not changing while the agency worked with the family. Though the third grader weighs 200 pounds, a spokesperson with Child and Family Services has stated that other health concerns made worse by the boy's weight are their main worry.

With this story in the headlines across the nation, some are worried about what a child's weight might do in a child custody case between divorcing spouses. The main issue that judges look at during a custody case is the general well-being of a child. If sole custody is determined and a child's health becomes an issue under the parenting of one spouse, the other may be able to use this as an opportunity to have the custody ruling revisited.

The length of time that a judge may give to the custodial parent to help their child become healthy may vary. With the 200-pound child removed from his mother, Child and Family Services spent roughly 20 months trying to turn his situation around. The boy has sleep apnea, which can become fatal if the circumstances are right. His obesity made his condition worse, which is why the agency worked with the boy's mother to get his weight down, but the boy's weight only increased. He was put into foster care in September.

While this case seems extreme, obesity is becoming more prevalent in custody cases, according to many news reports over the last few months. It is a difficult situation, because the child could be made to feel bad about his or her condition. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney could be a good way to find out what the law covers in certain situations.

Source: My Fox Phoenix, "Should Parents Lose Custody of Morbidly Obese Children?," Nov. 29, 2011

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