Scales of Justice: Obesity & Child Custody

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Can you be too fat to be an acceptable parent? One man's obesity is one of the factors being considered in a child custody dispute before the courts in Ottawa. He's lost well over a hundred pounds but the once-morbidly-obese Dad is still obese and a child protection agency says that affects his ability to parent. Today, some words from the Dad and a debate on the implications of using weight to determine custody.


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Scales of Justice: Obesity & Child Custody

Child-welfare authorities protect children from parents who are considered too damaged to raise families. In Ottawa, a custody battle is underway that has one father asking if it's possible to be -- too fat. This week, The Ottawa Citizen carried a story on a family court case that questions a father's fitness to raise his two sons. And one factor the court is considering is the man's weight.

We aired a reading from a court-ordered assessment of the family:

Because his children cannot be identified, we can't broadcast the father's name. But he spoke with us about his struggle with his weight - and with the Children's Aid Society.

The man's 5 and 6 year old sons both have special needs and now live in foster care. According to documents in the case, their father's weight is just one of several reasons the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa believes they should remain in the Crown's care.

The documents show the children's mother has struggled with pain, depression and anger issues. The father, too, is cited for anger management issues - as well as a history of marijuana use. But he says he's addressed his major problems - and thinks his weight is unfairly being used to keep him from his kids.

The court is expected to reach a decision on the custody of the man's children in the next few days. The Current asked the lawyer representing Children's Aid in the case for comment but did not receive a response.

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, which provided the court-ordered assessments of the family, declined to comment on the case. A spokes person did say that when doing such assessments, the hospital's Family Court Clinic examines a range of physical and mental issues that could be relevant to whether a parent should have custody.

Scales of Justice: Obesity & Child Custody - Panel

Few issues are as volatile as questioning someone's fitness to be a parent. Should weight be part of the equation? To debate that point, we were joined by two guests.
James Morton is a litigation lawyer who handles child protection cases in both Ontario and Nunavut. He joined us from our studio in Iqaluit. And Sarah Boulby is a family lawyer in Toronto. She was in our Toronto studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Shannon Higgins.


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