Gluten Free Divorce and Custody Cases
Food Choice as a Divorce and Custody Issue
Written by: Stefano Ceroni
Believe it or not, the issue of what individual parents choose to feed their children has become an increasingly contested issue in divorce and custody cases. Why?
Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last ten years, you’ve experienced firsthand the alternative nutritional movement of natural and organic “dieting.” In fact, eating healthy, organic, non-processed foods is for some, not just a diet, but a way of life.
The problem however, is this: although most loyal organic dieters likely share their convictions about healthy eating with their significant other, there are many instances when parents completely disagree about the importance and significance of living an “alternative food lifestyle.”
“You say tomato and potato…they say steak and eggs.”
That being said, when it comes to divorce and custody, what might have been a small disagreement about one’s dietary choices is often transformed into a struggle over parental authority. To make things worse, because the Arizona legislature recently added the phrase “personal care decisions” to the area of authority covered by legal decision-making rights (f.k.a. legal custody), parents are pursuing sole and final-say decision-making just so they can control their childrens’ diet when the kids are in the care of the other party. In fact, parents have even attempted to use one party’s “diet” as means by which to attack his or her parental judgment and caretaking abilities.
Don’t believe me? Listen to this…I recently saw a case where the opposing party scrutinized a client’s credit card statements because of the frequency with which the other parent ate at fast food restaurants. It’s true!!
Well, the truth is, when it comes to fighting over one’s child, parents will generally stop at nothing to discredit the abilities of the other parent, even if that means becoming a born-again vegan.
Will One Dietary Way of Life Prevail Over Another in a Court of Law?
The question is, does it make a difference? Will judges consider the dietary beliefs and positions of parents in determining legal decision-making authority? And if they do, do they prefer those parents who have chosen to raise their children in an organic home and will they then require the opposing party to feed the children in accordance with the organic parent’s wishes?
These, of course, are the million-dollar questions.
The problem is this: nobody really knows the answers!
All I can tell you is that in my experience, although dietary disputes are quite often raised during the pendency of divorce and custody cases, they rarely ever make it all the way to the judge’s chambers.
Why? Well, for one thing, when people are fighting over legal decision-making authority, they usually have bigger issues and concerns regarding the other parent that they spend their time and money arguing about. For another thing, you really never know what side of the aisle your family law judge may be on when it comes to this issue.
Your judge could be a little bit Granola or a little bit Cowboy. In other words, your judge may enjoy yoga, meditation and eating dehydrated flax seed. OR s/he might enjoy hunting, fishing and double quarter-pounders with cheese. And, because your individual judge has a tremendous amount of discretion when it comes to the determining the significance of these issues, both parties are usually safer not to broach the subject of the other parent’s food consumption lifestyle, as it could potentially work against them.
So, where does that leave us?
Does a Better Diet Mean a Better Child?
Well, in all honesty, I think the issue regarding the best way to nourish and raise one’s child is a decision that both parents should be entitled to make. Science, as far as I know, cannot accurately predict a person’s future happiness, success and character by looking at what type of diet a person had as a kid. Put another way, just because your child abstains from high fructose corn syrup doesn’t mean s/he will turn out better than if s/he drank a cup a day.
Sure, no one would ever question that raising “healthy” children is important. However, determining what is “healthy” is not always black and white. Remember, eggs were good for you…then they were bad for you…then they were good for you again…then the yoke was bad for you, but the whites were good for you…now the yoke’s “bad part” is actually good for you, but only in moderation…
I mean, who can keep track, really?
Anyway, I guess my point is this: barring extreme situations, this issue should really not become an issue at all. Both parents should respect the other parent’s decision regarding their children’s diet when the child is in their care. In the end, the child will eventually determine for themselves how they want to eat, and in the meantime, neither parent’s wishes will be scrutinized by the other. Hopefully, this will eliminate conflict, which is, in my opinion, much more damaging to a child than any food could possibly be.
Vegan or Not, Life Holds No Guarantees
To further make my point, I want to share with you a joke that my father (who I must confess was anything but a nutritionist) used to tell me about how everyone in this world is different and about how there are never any guarantees in life. My hope is this story will shed some light and some humor on an issue that I feel may be creating unnecessary conflict in many child custody cases.
Once upon a time in a New York City apartment, a man is set to be interviewed as a result of a monumental milestone that he recently achieved. The man was turning 100 years old and was the first man to ever reach triple digit age that was also a born and bred native New Yorker. When the interviewer arrived, she was amazed at what physical and mental shape the man was in. He was jogging away on his indoor treadmill while doing bicep curls with both arms. The man was tall, well groomed and didn’t look a day over 60.
Eventually, the man and the interviewer sat down and began talking about how the man felt about turning 100 years old.
Interviewer: So, I have to ask, how does it feel to be turning ONE HUNDRED years old, or should I say YOUNG, she chuckled?
Man: Ah, age is just a number…I feel great…In fact, I’ve never felt better!
Interviewer: I see that. It’s amazing, it truly is. Especially here, in New York City, a city that is known for its fast paced, stressful atmosphere…its cold winters, hot summers…never ending nightlife and vast array of guilty pleasures. Not to mention the crime!
Man: Yep, this city does have a lot to offer.
Interviewer: And I must say, your apartment, at your age…living in a 4th floor walk-up…that’s impressive.
Man: Well, I’ve lived here almost my whole life and I just can’t see myself moving anywhere else.
All of a sudden, a few loud noises begin to seep through the ceiling above, distracting the interviewer.
-Bang- Thud- Boom!!
Interviewer: Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m curious, with all the events that have transpired in the world and in this great city during your life, you must have some amazing stories to tell: run-ins with celebrities, adventures around the globe or even wild nights out on the town… do tell!
Man: Well, honestly, I’ve always kind of been a bit of a home body. Never cared too much for an adventurous lifestyle; always kept to myself really.
Interviewer: Huh, that’s interesting.
-Bang- Thud- Boom!! More noise is heard from upstairs. In fact, extremely loud music starts to echo through the air vents.
Interviewer: Everything o.k. up there?
Man: oh yeah, don’t worry about that, everything is fine.
Interviewer: OK, so anyway, I have to ask, what is your secret…all of my readers are dying to know what are your tips for looking so young and staying so healthy and vibrant, even at the grand old age of 100?
Man: Well, I’ll tell you. I never smoked…Yep, not one time. And, I never drank, not a sip…Never saw the need to poison my lungs or brain. And, I exercised. Since I was in high school, I made it a point to run three miles a day…And by golly…I’ve never missed a morning jog, and I hopefully never will.
Interviewer: What about food? Do you watch what you eat?
Man: You bet, I avoid all fat, sugar, carbohydrates, processed meat, processed cheese, and all of that hydrogenated high fructose whatchamacallit crap too. I eat fruits, vegetables and lean protein, that’s all…and, I think it has served me well. Also, I keep up with the times. I have a Vitamix blender and drink a health shake three times a day.
Interviewer: That’s incredible! You sure are dedicated to your health. No wonder you are so full of life, even at 100.
Boom- Boom- Boom…Music from upstairs is now at full volume and beginning to shake the walls.
Man: I apologize about the noise, would you like to move the interview to another room?
Interviewer: Sure, but first, I have to ask- how can you stand living with that racket going on upstairs? Is that a frequent occurrence? Have you ever yelled at those kids for making all that incessant noise?
Man: Kids? Nah….there not kids. Really, don’t worry about the noise. It’s just my Father up there having another one of his all night blowout parties. The guy really doesn’t know when to stop partying! It’s going to be the death of him…I swear.
Interviewer: YOUR DAD!!! WHAT?!!! He’s still alive???
Man: Yeah, crazy old man has been living like that since mom died 40 years ago. It’s a shame. I don’t know how he does it.