The Obesity-and-Custody Issue

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, family-law practitioners and legal experts say that parents in custody battles are increasingly blaming the other parent for the health issues of their children, including poor nutrition and obesity. The evidence in each case varies. For example, in some instances, a parent is too overweight to perform proper parental duties, thus leading the child to incur a similarly unhealthy lifestyle. In others, the child’s obesity is evidence that the parent allows the child to consume an excess amount of soft drinks and fast food. Parents are using this evidence to gain leverage in custody battles while placing the blame on the other as to why their child is grossly overweight.

In New York, as in several other states, the question of custody centers on what is in the best interest of the child. The best interest standard focuses both on the emotional well-being of a child as well as on the child’s physical health.

As the percentage of obesity in children rises, the obesity-and-custody issue  surfaces as a frequent battle between parents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17%, or about 12.5 million of our country’s children and teens, are obese. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that this number has tripled since the 1980s.

The issue “used to be constantly and consistently about smoking;” says family specialist Jeff Wittenbrink, “it’s only recently where one parent thinks their child is not active enough, is gaining weight and eating sugary food.”

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A Death-Bed Marriage

The New York Times recently printed an essay written by Judge Lloyd Zimmerman, a state court judge in Minneapolis about an emergency wedding. 

Cheryl is a hospice worker for Thomas, 77, who has been discharged from the medical center hospice unit so he can die at home.  Thomas can no longer talk and communicates entirely through hand squeezes. Thomas’s dying wish is to marry Donna, 57, his life partner for 38 years. For whatever reason, Thomas and Donna never got around to having a wedding.

According to Judge Zimmerman, the wedding license bureau told Cheryl that no one has the power to issue an emergency license by phone, but she could try to reach a judge. In a desperate attempt to make her ailing patient’s wish come true, Cheryl called 16 judges with the hope that she could find a judge willing to perform an emergency wedding.  By luck, Cheryl called Judge Zimmerman’s chambers and Judge Zimmerman personally answered the phone.

By law, a couple to wed is required to attest in person, under oath, in front of the wedding license official that all the statements on their wedding application are true. In Minnesota, like most other states, there are formalities a couple must comply with. Formalities include a 5-day waiting period and an appearance in person at the wedding license bureau. According to Judge Zimmerman, there are no official procedures for obtaining emergency deathbed-wedding licenses.

At the point when Judge Zimmerman received Cheryl’s call, Thomas was near death and a drive to the downtown Minneapolis court was an impossible trip.… <Read More>


9/11 Families Go To Court

Last week, relatives of September 11 victims who oppose a plan to put roughly 9,000 unidentified pieces of remains underground in the National September 11th Memorial & Museum went to court to press for access to a City-maintained list of the kin for all the 2,752 world trade center victims.

While the hearing dealt mostly with public-records law, an emotionally charged debate about the future of the 9,000 pieces of unidentified remains supplanted the public-records issue. Victims’ relatives were in the courtroom audience watching as their attorneys argued that the City-maintained list is needed so that the victims’ families can be polled about where they feel the remains should be buried. The families maintain that they were never consulted about the City’s plans to place the remains underground and would like the remains placed someplace separate from the museum.

New York City attorneys argued that releasing this list would invade the privacy of the victims’ relatives. The City stated that the identities of the victims only became the City’s business through tragedy. The City and the Memorial Foundation – which has some victims’ relatives on its board – argued that they have made a vast effort to include families in the planning, and that various family members have approved of this plan, as it has been known for many years.

The underlying issue here is who decides where the remains go? What obligates the government to consult the victims’ families? Should the government decide or should the victims’ families decide?… <Read More>