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Could dad lose custody for refusing his child a Happy Meal?

The headline might sound like a ridiculous question. Of course, that depends on one's parenting beliefs, as well as the details behind the odd incident involving the well-being of a 4-year-old boy.

It is an out-of-state family law case that has ignited a defamation suit against a psychiatrist involved in the child custody matter. The father in the situation claims that his parenting is being judged based on a decision he made during visitation with his son to not let him have McDonald's for dinner.

The denial of a Happy Meal has made for a severely unhappy situation.

At the center of the family law matter is a child, a child who reportedly was upset with his dad on one occasion because his dad wanted to eat dinner anywhere else except for McDonald's. As interactions with toddlers often do, the disagreement turned into a tantrum, and the father claims he did not want to reward that tantrum with McDonald's.

That visitation may not have been the most pleasant; however, the father didn't see it as a traumatic event. Now he claims to truly regret what happened. His regret isn't necessarily because he believes he did the wrong thing but because the incident spiraled into what is now a fight for him to retain some custody of his son.

The mother went to a doctor with the details of what she think happened, and that psychiatrist, according to the defamation lawsuit against her, told a family law judge that the McDonald's standoff made the father unfit to parent. Not only is the dad fighting for his parental rights, but he is suing the doctor for what he believes are false statements about his fathering.

Of course, these are the limited details of the child custody case that are available to the public at this time. There could be more to the case that supports the argument that the father is an unfit parent.

No matter what the other facts are, the most important point of this and any child custody case is the security of the child. Parental rights and a child's well-being are worth fighting for. Parents who are in that fight should work with a family law attorney who understands what is at stake and how to effectively address the sensitive matter.

Source: New York Post, "Dad ‘unfit parent for refusing son McDonald’s’," Julia Marsh and Reuven Fenton, Nov. 7, 2013

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