Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Co-Parenting, Control and Food Wars

This is an interesting article that shows how seemingly "minor" conflicts in post-divorce parenting can become World War III custody battles. In this case the mom believed the father should lose custody because he packed the child a go-gurt and doritos type of lunch rather than a vegetarian, whole foods lunch. As a family law attorney I have seen how conflicts between parenting styles can escalate into control issues, post-divorce. These conflicts, while purportedly pursued because of a concern for the child's best interests, almost never end up resulting in the child's best interests being met. The battle between the parents, itself, wreaks havoc on the child and is generally far more emotionally and physically detrimental to the child than the occasional twinkie, bottle of soda, or slice of white bread. This is not to say that I don't agree wholeheartedly with parents who feed their children a whole foods, natural vegetarian diet, or some version thereof. I understand that the desire to feed the child this type of diet is from a genuine belief that the child should have, and benefits from, such a diet. This is even more true when the child's diet was structured in this way during the marriage. It is not about controlling the other parent, it is about a desire to continue to raise the child in the same manner that the child was raised during the marriage. It is upsetting to parents to lose the control over raising their child in the manner that had been previously established and either actively or passively agreed upon by both parents.
That said, for the sake of the child, food should not be the focus of a custody battle (unless, of course, the child's life depends upon sticking to a certain diet, then it is wholeheartedly in the child's best interest that both parents continue to enforce the diet). When parents separate they must be prepared to relinquish some of the day to day control over raising their child. Even if they don't believe that the other parent's methods are the best for the child, they must look at the big picture before considering engaging in a long, expensive, and heartbreaking custody battle over what the judges will most likely consider minor issues.
I want to leave you with one thought, though, regarding a negative perception you may have about this particular mother. Ask yourself, if she were complaining that the father now engages in corporal punishment, despite never having done so during the marriage and if she told you that they had both agreed not to spank their children during the marriage, would you find yourself more sympathetic to her plight?

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