03/21/2012 08:56 am ET Updated May 21, 2012

Divorce -- A Weighty Issue

Weight is often an issue in divorce. I have had clients who have come to me seeking a divorce from a spouse because the husband or wife was vastly overweight and any physical attraction was long gone. Is that a basis for divorce?

According to the law -- including law in Michigan where I practice, which is a no-fault state -- any reason can cause a breakdown of the marriage, and weight is clearly a reason for a breakdown in communication.

I've had many clients who have met with me and stated that his or her spouse is complaining about his or her spouse's weight, and then suddenly something happens -- I call it the divorce diet. Whether because of stress or other reasons, there is suddenly weight loss. People stop eating. They also often stop sleeping.

On the other hand, some people will turn to food for comfort and, during a divorce, may start putting on more weight. Weight is clearly an issue.

Another issue where weight can be a concern is when all of a sudden, before a divorce, a husband or wife starts losing weight, working out, toning up, and perhaps going to a gym. These are often signs that a marriage is in trouble. There could be a new relationship or affair going on and the husband or wife who, in the past, didn't care about his or her looks is suddenly trying to impress someone else. This is a warning sign. I have seen this in many, many divorces.

Children and weight is another issue. An article from October 2011 in the Wall Street Journal discussed the fact that weight can play a role in custody disputes. Overweight children have been an issue in some of my custody cases, where the child may be grossly overweight because he or she is not being fed properly. It can also present an issue where there is a disagreement between spouses or former spouses about diet. I've had cases where people have argued over junk food -- whether it's appropriate to take the children to McDonald's all the time or to give them different foods. If people want to fight, they can fight about anything.

What are some resolutions to these problems -- especially those regarding the role weight plays in a divorce? Here are some ideas:

  • Try to communicate.
  • I am a big advocate of journal writing and keeping track of things, including items such as diet and weight. Both children and adults can do this. My daughter has published a journal that she used to track her weight loss, which is very successful -- it is called Lose it Write. The key is that by writing in a journal and keeping track of what you eat, you can lose weight.
  • Try to eat in moderation. Drink in moderation because alcohol is a very easy way to put on a lot of weight.
  • Talk to your attorney or therapist about these issues to see whether or not they are going to impact your divorce or impact custody or parenting time with your children.
  • If there is a sudden change in weight in one spouse during a marriage, perhaps it is time to see a doctor or a therapist, especially if there is an indication that the marriage is in trouble and maybe an affair is going on.

Remember that divorce can be a very weighty issue. If you have some thoughts on this issue, please share them with me.

Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222