Even with intact families, there are often conflicts over what seem to be minor issues like “what’s for dinner?” However, in divorce and high conflict custody cases parenting styles may come into major disagreement arising from differences in religion, medication, sports, etc. Often parents cannot compromise and request that a judge get involved in what had traditionally been a part of the parents’ decision making process. Even disputes about a child’s eating habits are finding their way to court in custody cases when parental negotiations break down.

I’ve had more and more cases involving parental conflict over a child’s eating habits and nutrition, including issues of fasting, vegan diet verses fast food with its associated risks for diabetes and obesity. In such cases one parent might accuse the other parent of trying to buy their child’s support with pizza and fast food while the other parent is trying to have the child eat healthy and set a limit on meat or sugar. There are cases where one parent contends that the other parent is trying to be controlling by not allowing the child to have any sugar while at his or her home.

There have been many issues with DCF cases and with supervised parenting centers making reports of so-called unhealthy eating. Some of these cases have risen to allegations of neglect based on a child’s medical condition and the judgment of a case worker. There have even been instances where neither parent was providing meals for the child because of a dispute over pick up/drop off and what child support covers. (I’ve seen this happen with DCF cases as well as cases involving with upper middle class parents).

It’s a difficult process for a judge to make a determination based on the eating habits of a child and parenting styles. It is always better if the parents can work together; but that’s easier said than done.

For a family law attorney, there are conflict resolution mechanisms such as parenting coordinators or mediators which may be an alternative to going to court. But, if push comes to shove, and the issue needs to be resolved in court, a Guardian Ad Litem or a child’s ARC attorney can be involved.

When the parents choose to resolve such conflicts through the courts, it’s important that both parents be aware that the conflict and litigation may bring unnecessary stress, litigation costs and uncertainty. It’s always advisable to set aside personal animosity and the idea of being right and focus on the best interests of the child which includes having parents as role models for making mature decisions.