Can recreational marijuana use affect my child custody case?

| Dec 15, 2016 | child custody

Now that recreational marijuana usage has been legalized – at least on the state level – all up and down the West Coast, if you are a parent who likes to indulge, you may feel this has given you the green light. But if you are going through a divorce or a contested custody battle, you might want to wait before sparking one up.

To the feds, it’s still illegal

Parents in other states where it’s either legal recreationally or medically have lost custody of their children over their marijuana usage. Part of the problem is the Catch-22 situation where parents may not be breaking state laws but are in violation of existing federal laws that classify marijuana as Schedule I, the same as heroin.

The gold standard of child custody cases is – and remains – that what is in the best interests of the children should prevail. However, determining those interests requires a great degree of subjectivity that can vary widely between family court jurisdictions. Too, those tasked with assuring that children are safe and free from harm at home, e.g., Child Protective Services workers, introduce their own prejudices against marijuana smokers into the mix when a report is made about a parent’s pot usage.

Spiteful exes can use pot usage as leverage in custody cases

If you are a marijuana-using parent whose pot habit was barely tolerated by your non-smoking spouse during your marriage, it’s quite likely that your habit will be revisited during your custody battle. The more acrimonious the case, the dirtier the tactics can be to achieve desired results. It’s a wise decision to begin your detox well before filing your petition for divorce to avoid falling into this trap.

Many of you are likely saying, “Wait a minute. I don’t smoke in front of the kids and I’m not impaired around them. Why should it matter if I smoke a couple of bowls before bedtime?” That can be a very valid point, as more enlightened minds are beginning to realize that social use of marijuana is on par with social drinking and should be considered as such.

Biology is against you

The problem here is that it’s quite easy to show that your glass of wine with dinner, couple of beers while watching the Seahawks or cocktails while out with friends don’t impair your parenting abilities. You can be screened for alcohol and pass with flying colors. Now, try that with pot.

Ay, there’s the rub. THC metabolites can be detected in urine drug screens for 45 days or longer from the last time a smoker indulges, and hair tests go back much farther than that. Your family law attorney can certainly argue that your recreational pot smoking has no ill effect on your children, but do you really want to jeopardize the potential custody of your kids over your habit?

Until the laws are clarified across the board, it’s a wise decision for parents with pending custody cases to kick the habit and remove this barrier to obtaining custody.