Weighing in on the Rights of Parents


A Cleveland, Ohio mother is losing her child for a pretty unique reason: the state has determined that her child is too fat.

The mother brought her child into a hospital sometime last year, citing concern over problems breathing.  The doctors at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s hospital diagnosed him with sleep apnea (a disease commonly associated with being overweight), contacted social workers, and enrolled the 200+ lb. youth in a program geared towards shedding pounds.  The youth experienced moderate success for a while, but quickly regained the weight. 

The mother of the child (whose name has not been released) was distraught, shocked at the fact that her child was being forced into the foster care system based on her weight.  The mother was quoted as stating, “It’s a lifestyle change and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that. It is very hard, but I am trying”.

The Constitution places a high level of importance on the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.  Legally, the state must have a compelling state interest in removing a child from their parent’s care.  A “compelling state interest” can be the health and well-being of an individual.  What’s curious –and possibly dangerous- about this however, is the fact that America is facing an obesity epidemic.

For those of you on the side of removing the child from the parent citing the better good, consider the case of Adela Martinez.  A decade ago, her three-year old daughter, Anamarie was removed from her care. … <Read More>

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.”

<Read More>

Returning Home For a Better Life or Parental Kidnapping?


Parental kidnapping has been an issue many people across the country and the world have had to face. Iraq veteran and New Jersey resident Michael Elias alleges that he has experienced it firsthand.  Elias, who returned home from Iraq three years ago, alleges that upon his return, his former wife told him she wanted a divorce. However, if only Elias could foresee what was to come—an international custody battle with his former wife, who is now living with their two children approximately 7,000 miles away in Japan.

Upon divorce, Elias and his former wife were granted joint custody by a Bergen County Court. In order to prevent either parent from taking the children out of the country, the Court directed that the children’s passports be surrendered. With the children’s passports surrendered and a court order of joint custody, Elias thought he had nothing to worry about. 

However, during a routine exchange of the children a few months later, Elias waited for his children to be dropped off for his parenting time. What he didn’t know what that he former wife and their two children were on a plane to Japan, violating the custody order. Since Elias’s former wife worked at the Japanese Embassy, she was able to get new passports for the children. How did she obtain new passports for the children legally and now that she is in Japan with the children, does it really even matter?

Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention on Parental Kidnapping, so what is Elias supposed to do?… <Read More>

That’s not my daughter. Can I get a refund?

For the most part, the headline sums up what Eric Fischer asked Connecticut’s highest court, following a divorce from his wife. According to ABC news writer Christina Ng, Fischer discovered that the daughter he was raising was not biologically his. In the case, the court ruled that Fischer could sue the biological father, Richard Zollino, for $190,000 – the cost of raising the girl for 15 years. Fischer v. Zollino, 303 Conn. 661 (2012). The numerical figure was based on an expert witness’ calculation.

During his marriage, Fischer claimed to have seen red flags regarding the girl’s paternity. On the ride back from the hospital when the girl was born, his wife’s friend and business partner, Zollino, joined the couple in the limo. Awkward. Additionally, Zollino was present at the girl’s music recitals and graduation; however, he was not present at events of the couple’s other daughter. Creepy.

For 15 years he suspected, but never said anything. Finally, he obtained a hair sample from the girl and submitted it for a paternity test along with his DNA. The results came in October of 2006 and stated that he was not the father. The couple divorced soon after in 2007, and a test later proved that Zollino was the father.

Initially, Fischer looks at fault for not officially questioning the paternity earlier in the marriage. It seems there should be a time cap on challenging paternity. Or should there? The first thought that came to mind was that Fischer held the girl out as his own by attending major events in her life and by financially providing for her.… <Read More>

Supervised Visitation Leads to Tragedy

Josh Powell with sons Charlie and Braden

Shortly prior to the tragic death of Charlie and Braden Powell this week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Kathryn Nelson, ordered a psychosexual evaluation of their father, Josh Powell, as a requirement of regaining custody of his children aged 5 and 7. According to Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, Mark Lindquist, the situation may have been untenable to the control-obsessed father: if he refused to take the test, he would lose custody of the children; if he flunked the exam or refused to fully cooperate, he would also lose custody. Sometimes referred to as a sexual-deviancy examination, a psychosexual evaluation is lengthy and intrusive, taking upward of 30 hours to complete. Often used in testing sex offenders who have been civilly committed, the exams assess an individual’s personality, sexual history, potential risk factors and other patterns in determining and identifying possible sexual addictions.

Powell initially lost custody last fall in a battle with the state and his in-laws after his father, with whom he and the boys resided, was arrested on voyeurism and child-pornography charges. These allegations and other revelations about Josh Powell’s upbringing led to the judge’s decision to order the psychosexual evaluation prior to determining whether Powell could regain custody of the two boys.

During a court-ordered supervised visit on Sunday, Josh Powell attacked his children with a hatchet before setting fire to his home. Supervised visitation can be ordered by a judge when there are concerns about the protection and safety of a child in the company of a parent.… <Read More>