A recent article in the Wall Street Journal calls obesity the new second-hand-smoke in child custody cases in the U.S. Families with an overweight child, or in which a parent is morbidly obese, are seeking guidance from the court system. If a parent claims his or her child is only offered fast foods and doesn’t get proper exercise, a judge might make the decision to switch custody. Physical health is now an important factor in custody cases in Massachusetts because research shows children who have unhealthy diets and aren’t regularly active, are at a greater risk of developing life-threatening illness like diabetes and heart disease.
And while the child’s physical well-being is at stake, so is his or her mental health. A child who is relentlessly bullied at school because of his or weight is at a greater risk of depression and suicide. So it seems natural that being mindful of a child’s eating habits and lifestyle could impact custody rulings; however, some divorce lawyers believe it’s simply another tool for parents to fight with each other, putting their children in an even more deeply stressful situation that can lead to psychological disadvantages.
If eating healthy equates to living in a house free of second-hand smoke, then it’s an important issue. But until fast food becomes illegal for minors, it probably won’t be deemed totally criminal.