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Are dietary issues really a cause for custody disputes?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | Child Custody

Your child has some significant health issues – and they come with dietary restrictions. When you were married, you handled the household meals (and your child’s diet). Now that you’re divorced, things aren’t so simple, and your co-parent has proven to be either incapable or (more likely) unwilling to manage your child’s dietary needs.

Is this really a cause for a custody dispute? Quite possibly. Here are some things you need to consider.

Dietary restrictions for a medical need are different than dietary preferences

The most important thing to consider is whether your child’s dietary restrictions are a genuine medical need – or not. If, for example, you worry about your child’s health and want them to have a “clean” diet that is largely free of processed food and added sugars, that’s fine. However, your co-parent may not see the same harm in an occasional trip to McDonald’s or an ice cream treat. The court is unlikely to see a problem with this, either.

However, if your child has a medical condition that requires a special diet, your co-parent’s inability to follow the doctor-prescribed plan could be considered neglectful or, possibly, abusive. Situations like that include:

  • A child with multiple food allergies with a parent who thinks that the whole idea of food allergies is just “junk science”
  • A child with severe celiac disease who cannot have gluten, and their other parent insists that a “little” won’t hurt them
  • A child with juvenile diabetes whose other parent won’t regulate their carb or sugar intake and make sure they have meals and insulin on time
  • A child who is overweight or obese (as diagnosed by a physician) whose other parent continues to allow them unrestricted access to anything they want to eat

In other words, if the issue is a matter of two different people with two different ideas of what’s healthy and appropriate when it comes to food, the court is unlikely to consider that a significant problem. If the child is being put in real danger, however, that isn’t in the best interests of the child.

If you’re worried about your child’s safety when they’re with their other parent, it may be time to talk about a custody modification.

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