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Can marijuana use threaten child custody rights?

Anyone who is exposed to virtually any form of news media is aware that the nation is struggling to determine the best way to handle the issue of legalizing marijuana. While some states have taken far greater strides in the matter than others, there are still a number of concerns for those who make use of the drug. Regardless of whether marijuana use is legal, the issue can lead to legal troubles if a child custody case arises. Understanding how drug use can affect one's child custody rights can make a world of difference for Colorado parents facing such a challenge.

When it comes to a custody case, whether between two divorcing parents or between an intact family and the state, family court judges must consider the safety and well-being of a child. In most cases, children are best served by continuing to live with their parents, or in the event of a divorce, continuing to have access to both parents. However, if drug use is causing a safety concern within the home, the court could rule that the child is best served by being removed from that environment.

Many people argue that once marijuana use is legalized, the matter becomes similar to alcohol consumption. Parents are able to drink while having their children in their care, and it is rare to have a custody case revolve around the responsible consumption of alcohol. However, the nature of marijuana is different from that of alcohol, especially when the drug is smoked and a child could be exposed to secondhand smoke. Parents who leave drugs where children could have access to them are also at risk of losing their access to those children.

As with most social changes, family courts in Colorado and elsewhere are slow to catch up to changes in legislation and/or changing societal norms. This means that even if the medical or recreational use of marijuana is deemed legal, the issue could still lead to serious child custody matters. For those in Colorado who are facing a custody battle in which drug use is a factor, it is imperative to take a proactive approach, and discuss the matter in depth with a family law attorney.

Source:, "Marijuana's Role in Child-Custody Cases", Randi L. Rubin, July 15, 2015

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