Courts in many states are increasingly being asked to consider a fairly new factor in their determinations of a child’s best interests in a child custody dispute: obesity.

Many things are contributing to this change. One factor commonly noted is the shift that has taken place in recent decades regarding judicial and parental expectations about custody.

Although at one time the clear norm was for the mother to receive sole custody and the father limited visitation rights, that has changed appreciably over the years. Nowadays shared custody is a commonplace arrangement, and that has brought an increase in evaluations by each parent regarding the other’s perceived strengths and weaknesses as a caregiver. As a result, custody battles have increased, as have the reasons underlying them.

And, thus, a child’s best interests are now more commonly being considered in terms of both his or her physical as well as emotional well-being.

That brings in the subject of obesity, an undeniable problem for many young people today. David Ludwig, an obesity expert from Boston, states that “in severe cases of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable.”

Many judges and attorneys note that disputes concerning obesity are arising in court with high frequency these days.

“Typically, one parent is accusing the other of putting a child at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease — or saying that the child is miserable because he’s getting made fun of at school,” says one family attorney.

Obesity is, of course, one of many factors that might be considered by a court in adjudging a child’s best interests. If you have any questions or concerns regarding a child custody matter, contact an experienced Fulton County family law attorney.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Obesity fuels custody fights” Oct. 29, 2011