Do Maryland parents with an obese child deserve to lose custody?

Marylanders are likely aware of the recent increased attention to the problem of childhood obesity. Obesity in a child can lead to serious health problems as an adult and, in some cases, can even compromise the child’s immediate health. In light of this, one soon-to-be doctor has questioned whether or not the parents of obese children should lose child custody of them if they are unwilling or unable to do something about the child’s health. Even though this medical student’s question is raised in the context of the state’s interfering with a parent’s custody, Howard County child custody lawyers may also face similar issues in child custody disputes between two parents.

This medical student is not alone in her questioning, as other experts have outright suggested that state officials should remove children from the home if their parents refuse to see to it that the children maintain a proper weight.

Under Maryland’s child custody laws, judges will make their custody decision based on what they see as the best interest of the child. What is in the best interest of the child depends on a number of factors, many of which are listed in Maryland’s child custody statutes.

Certainly, however, a judge can consider the physical health and wellbeing of a child when making a custody determination. If the judge believes that a child would not be kept on a proper diet in one parent’s home, then the judge may lean toward awarding child custody to the other parent who will see to it that a child maintains a healthy body weight.

However, it is important to remember that just because a child is overweight, even grossly overweight, a parent is not thereby irresponsible. Some forms of obesity can be treated by a better diet and frequent exercise; at other times, kids will struggle with their body weight consistently due to circumstances beyond either their own or their parents’ control.

Source: Times Union, “Should parents lose custody of obese children?” Marianne DiNapoli, April 4, 2013

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