updated 1/7/2008 8:11:14 PM ET 2008-01-08T01:11:14

A man who claimed his obesity kept him from being allowed to adopt a baby will be allowed custody of the child while he and his wife move forward with adoption, a judge ruled Monday.

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Gary Stocklaufer and his wife, Cindy, were awarded custody of the 8-month-old boy at a hearing before state judge John R. O'Malley. The child has been in the custody of another couple, who also have been trying to adopt him.

The Stocklaufers' case gained national attention after the couple said they were denied a petition to adopt the child because of Gary Stocklaufer's weight; he had weighed 550 pounds. He underwent gastric bypass surgery in August and has lost about 200 pounds.

Last month, O'Malley gave the Stocklaufers temporary custody of the child, named Max, and said the decision by another judge to remove the boy from their home over the summer had nothing to do with Gary Stocklaufer's weight. The judge said it was because the couple did not follow proper procedures when moving the child into Missouri from another state.

In his ruling Monday, O'Malley said it is "in the child's best interest" that the Stocklaufers "be permitted to adopt him."

The judge ordered the other couple to transfer the child Monday at a private location that the two families agreed on. The Stocklaufers can "proceed to pursue an adoption of the child when sufficient time has passed," O'Malley said.

"Obviously, my clients are very happy," said Gerald McGonagle, the Stocklaufers' attorney. "They fought long and hard."

Baby Max, who is from Arlington, Texas, and is related to the Stocklaufers, was 4 months old when he was taken from the couple in July. The baby had lived with the Stocklaufers since he was a week old.

"I just am thankful that my client — the minor child — had the opportunity for two different families to adopt him," said Sheri Simpkins, the child's court-appointed guardian for the case. "There are a lot of children available for adoption. This is a unique situation where the child had two loving families that wanted him."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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