Parents Banned From Weighing 8-Year-Old, Australian Court Orders

07/27/2012 03:00 pm ET

An Australian court has banned a pair of feuding parents from weighing their 8-year-old daughter after a judge found that the frequency with which they were doing so did not take into account effects on the the girl's confidence, Nine MSN reports.

The girl's father was allegedly taking his daughter to the doctor to be weighed both before and after she visited her mother. His rationale was apparently to prove that the mother was to blame for the girl's weight, which was reported to be 48kg, or about 105 pounds.

"It was necessary to show that every time she comes back from her mother, she was a lot more than what she was when she left," the man told the Federal Magistrates' Court, according to Nine MSN.

Whether the father was genuinely concerned over his daughter's weight or was merely trying to vilify her mother remains unknown, but the issue of children's weight surfacing in family courts has become increasingly common in recent years. The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that the number of custody cases where parents cite obesity as a factor is on the rise.

"It's come up quite a bit in the last couple of years," Douglas Gardner, a family-law practitioner, told the Journal. "Typically, one parent is accusing the other of putting a child at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease -- or saying that the child is miserable because he's getting made fun of at school."

In this most recent case of the Australian parents, bullying at school over the girl's weight was mentioned to the court as an issue.

The debate over how parents should handle a child's weight has been hotly debated in recent months. Some experts have gone so far as to argue that it can be appropriate for parents with severely obese children to temporarily lose custody in an effort to protect the child's well-being, according to ABC News. Others, however, have argued that it's not fair to put all the blame on the parents, the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

There's also the question of how much weight gain should prompt concern or action on the part of parents, and how their response might affect the child. Strict diets for young children, for example, have proven highly controversial: When Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote about putting her 7-year-old on a diet, Jezebel dubbed it "the worst Vogue article ever." Nevertheless, the article garnered enough attention that Weiss has since signed a book deal.

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