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How marijuana use can affect child custody outcomes

In Florida and across the nation, the best way to approach marijuana use continues to be debated. While more and more states are taking action to legalize use of the drug for medical or recreational use, the matter is far from settled. For parents, any use of marijuana can bring on a range of child custody problems, and it is important to understand how the courts have come down on the matter in recent years.

Any child custody action, whether between two divorcing parents or between a parent and the state, is centered on a concept known as the best interests of the child. This means that family court judges are tasked with weighing all aspects of a case, and determining an outcome that meets the needs of the child or children involved. The rights of parents are also taken into consideration, but do not hold the same weight as the best interests of minor children.

When it comes to the use of marijuana, the matter is not as simple as whether the drug is being used in a lawful manner. The court must also consider whether such use places a child at risk of harm. For example, a parent who is using marijuana for medical purposes may be doing so lawfully, but if a child is exposed to secondhand smoke from that practice, then the court could determine that the safety of the child is being compromised. The same could be said of storing marijuana or related paraphernalia in a place that is accessible by a child.

Parents in Florida who use marijuana and are facing a child custody challenge have a very serious set of circumstances to address. Drug use of any kind, whether legal or not, can be argued as having a negative effect on a child. In cases in which this type of allegation is made, the parent has the burden of proving to the court that such use does not pose a risk to minor children residing within the home. Failure to do so can result in a loss of child custody, and a long and hard road to regain those rights.

Source: thelegalintelligencer.com, "Marijuana's Role in Child-Custody Cases", Randi L. Rubin, July 14, 2015

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