In my last post in this series, I described how one judge dealt with the relocation of one parent in a child custody trial. In this post in the same series, I’ll discuss how that judge treated marijuana use by both parents.
In this case, one parent had used marijuana one time within the last three years, and during the child’s life. The other parent had used marijuana in high school (approximately 8 years earlier). There was some evidence that both may have used marijuana more recently, but nothing conclusive. Neither parent has been arrested or charged with a drug offense, and there was no evidence that either party was a regular user.
The judge did not seem particularly upset by either parent’s marijuana usage. The judge did specifically order both parties to refrain from using illegal drugs in the future. But, the judge did not make drug assessments or drug testing a part of the order.
This result suggests that sporadic or isolated marijuana use by a parent may not be a huge factor in custody determinations. If the use is infrequent and the child is not present, then marijuana usage may not severely impair a parent’s efforts to obtain custody or visitation of a child.
However, regular or frequent use of marijuana is likely to be a factor in custody determinations. There is no definitive way of knowing what level of marijuana use will trigger a serious concern for any particular judge. So, the safest course is always to refrain from any marijuana use so that there is no issue in the custody action. And, it is safe to assume that “harder” drug use will create a serious problem for parents seeking custody or visitation of a child.
Lesson: I am frequently asked by clients whether their use of marijuana will prevent them from gaining visitation or custody of their children. The outcome in this particular case indicates that the less frequent the use, the better, and the longer ago the use, the better. But, a one time use or very infrequent use will not necessarily prevent a parent from gaining visitation or custody of a child.
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