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Obesity is growing as a factor in Pittsburgh child custody battles

Obesity and health accusations and gaining more weight in custody battles, according to experts.

Family-law practitioners and other legals experts have noticed that parents involved in child custody actions are using their children's obesity and poor nutrition as proof that the opposing party is unfit to take care of their children. In some cases, the obesity of one of the parents may be used as evidence that the parent is not fit to take care of children.

The exact accusations used can vary from one child to the next. Overweight or obese children are visible examples of an unhealthy diet, but parents are also pointing to the staple foods of their children's diets when suggesting the other parent is unfit to take care of children.

Pittsburgh child custody attorneys have noticed that childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent of children in the United States -- roughly 12.5 million children and teens -- are obese. That number has nearly tripled since 1980.

A child's lifestyle features, including obesity, poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, sometimes cause judges to assign joint custody to the parents in a way that emphasizes the strengths of each parent while attempting to neutralize the weaknesses that may be adversely affecting a child's physical and mental health.

Generally, attacks on obesity and health are not as successful when they are used as an attempt to discredit the other party, except in cases where health issues are extreme. However, parents that appear to be similar in many regards could be separated by differences in weight, health or their ability to provide their children with a healthy lifestyle.

Source: WSJ "Obesity Fuels Custody Fights" Oct. 29, 2011

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