Is Obesity a Form of Child Abuse?

Several media outlets, including CNN, have recently highlighted an academic paper that floats a jarring idea: the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association argues that in certain circumstances “severely obese children be removed from their homes, and that government involvement may be justifiable because of the imminent health risks and the parents chronic failure to address medical problems.”

In other words, the authors argue that allowing your child to become obese is a form of child abuse, and should be treated as such by the courts.

From the perspective of an Orange County family law and child custody attorney the best that can be said about proposals like this is that they are obviously well-intentioned. Childhood obesity is a well-documented, and growing, problem in our country. Moreover, the examples cited by the authors and by CNN – a 90 lb toddler, a 400 pound 12-year-old – are, indeed, shocking. The problem would come when decisions had to be made about children who are overweight but in no imminent physical danger. The argument being made by the authors could easily be extended by analogy to eating disorders, creating an implication that California parents’ rights somehow end (or are at least to be curtailed) as soon as a child is judged to have a less-than-perfect diet.

Of course it is worth noting that in an Orange County child custody and visitation case this would hardly be the first time one parent has alleged poor care as an excuse to keep a child away from the other parent. Such tactics are a common feature of suits involving California parental alienation claims.

The assistance of an experienced Costa Mesa, Santa Ana or Anaheim family law attorney is essential for parents seeking to defend their rights against shocking accusations during the especially trying weeks and months that surround a California divorce.

CNN.com: Should Parents Lose Custody of Obese Children?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Should Obesity Qualify as Child Abuse?