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Child Custody For Tobacco Users Might Go Up In Smoke

If you are involved in a child custody dispute and you are a smoker, the chances of getting full or even joint custody are getting slim.

According to a recent article in the Washington Times, at least 18 states are now factoring in smoking when making decisions regarding custody of minor children.

According to a survey conducted by Action on Smoking Health, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, no judge or court has ever ruled that subjecting a child to tobacco smoke should be ignored when deciding custody and in thousands of cases, courts have prohibited smoking in the presence of a child, especially in vehicles. In some cases, court orders prohibit smoking in a home 24 or 48 hours before the child arrives and in some cases, parents have lost their custody rights or has visitations reduced because they subjected a child to tobacco smoke.

According to the survey, courts sometimes also consider the smoking habits of others who may have contact with the child like grandparents, friends, or significant others, when making custody decisions.

Secondhand smoke’s effects are a concern for most parents and courts are becoming more and more sympathetic to this concern, especially if the child has respiratory problems or allergies.

According to the article, judges are skeptical of parents who quit smoking right before a custody battle begins, thinking the parent may start up again once the issue is settled.

It is recommended that if you smoke, do so outdoors and never in a vehicle and don’t allow others to smoke around your children.

The article states that some may argue that the state is intruding on family affairs by limiting the rights of private citizens to smoke as a condition of being a parent, and will the state next begin controlling the diet a parent provides for his children. Others find it doubtful it will go that far, given the well-documented harms of second hand smoke.

Judge William F. Chinnock, visiting Judge to the Ohio Supreme Court, said in a law review article that a “considered analysis of family law across the United States leads to this inescapable conclusion: a family court that does not issue court orders restraining persons from smoking in the presence of children under the court’s care fails those children whom the law has entrusted to its care.”