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Child custody battle centers on participation in pageants

When parents approach the court to determine issues of child custody, each state has a specific set of guidelines that guide the process. The primary focus of the judge is always the best interests of the child, and successful arguments over which parent is better suited to gain sole or primary child custody are tailored to meet that standard. In addition, a judge in Colorado will also consider claims made by one parent that the other is causing harm to the child.

That is the approach that one father is taking in his high-profile child custody case. He is attempting to wrest custody away from his ex-wife on the basis that the mother is causing harm to their daughter by virtue of allowing and encouraging the little girl to participate in pageants. Bolstering his claim is a report written by the court-ordered child psychologist in the case.

The report unequivocally states that participation in pageants trains children to look and act like women in their 20s and 30s, and that it is not an appropriate form of play. The report goes on to state that several of the costumes that the child has worn are inappropriate, and have the effect of sexualizing her. This assessment is backed up by another psychotherapist, who is not associated with the case but told reporters that at least one of the child's costumes played to a known sexual fetish.

Other parents on the pageant circuit have expressed concern that the outcome of this case could cause good parents to lose custody of their children, simply because they choose to participate in one hobby over any other. Their fears may be valid; if the judge in this case sides with the father and removes custody from the girl's mother based solely on pageant participation, a legal precedent may be set, at least in the state where the proceedings are pending. Parents in Colorado and beyond will likely keep close watch on this child custody case as it nears completion in late August.

Source: Fox News, "'Toddlers & Tiaras' moms worried child beauty pageants can be used against them in custody cases," Meaghan Murphy, Aug. 24, 2012

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