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How Marijuana Use Can Affect a Child Custody Dispute

Tue 17th Aug, 2021 Family Law

On January 1, 2018, California became the largest state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use. This milestone was the result of a years-long campaign, which followed a larger nationwide trend toward acceptance of the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. While Californians no longer face criminal penalties for many types of marijuana usage, questions remain about the impact marijuana use — even legal marijuana use — will have on a child custody dispute. If you are facing this issue, please consider contacting our Stockton child custody law firm

Marijuana Use Can Complicate Child Custody Matters

Courts are guided by the “best interests of the child” when deciding child custody matters after a divorce. Generally, family courts abide by the principle that the child’s best interests are served by the child having frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the divorce. However, several factors can weigh against the presumption, including scenarios where placing the child with one parent would jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the child

Substance abuse is one such scenario, and allegations of substance abuse are commonly cited by parents seeking sole custody. The question, then, is whether marijuana usage in and of itself could jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of a child. Traditionally, the answer likely would have been “yes,” as all forms of marijuana usage were illegal until quite recently. However, given the widespread acceptance of both medical and recreational marijuana use, many family law judges now consider marijuana use analogous to alcohol use. Reasonable use of marijuana will ordinarily not impact the child’s health, safety, or welfare, but habitual use or abuse may weigh against a marijuana user in a custody decision. 

Common-Sense Guidelines for Parents Who Use Marijuana

The best way to avoid marijuana-related complications in a child custody dispute is to refrain from using it. Even though reasonable use may not put a child in danger, marijuana still carries a stigma and can cause a family law judge to question the user’s ability to put his or her child’s interests first. If you choose to partake of marijuana or are prescribed marijuana for a medical condition, keeps these tips in mind: 

  • Do not use marijuana around your children
  • Keep marijuana away from places your children can access
  • Do not operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana 
  • Never use marijuana excessively 

Also, keep in mind that child custody decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and often come down to the decision of a single judge. Your case might end up in front of a judge who is sympathetic to reasonable marijuana usage, or it could end up in front of a judge who believes marijuana is a threat to children regardless of its legality.  

Contact a Stockton Child Custody Law Firm for More Information

For more information about how marijuana use can affect a child custody dispute, please contact the Stockton child custody law firm of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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